Alcohol consumption and cognitive function in late life: A longitudinal community study

Mary Ganguli, J. Vander Bilt, J. A. Saxton, C. Shen, H. H. Dodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the association between alcohol use and cognitive decline in a longitudinal study of a representative elderly community sample free of dementia at baseline. Methods: Cognitive functions and self-reported drinking habits were assessed at 2-year intervals over an average of 7 years of follow-up. Cognitive measures, grouped into composites, were examined in association with alcohol consumption. Trajectory analyses identified latent homogeneous groups with respect to alcohol use frequency over time, and their association with average decline over the same period in each cognitive domain. Models controlled for age, sex, education, depression, smoking, general mental status (Mini-Mental State Examination [MMSE]), performance on the given test at baseline, and subsequent new-onset dementia during follow-up. Results: The authors found three homogeneous trajectories that they characterized as no drinking, minimal drinking, and moderate drinking. Few heavy drinkers were identified in this elderly cohort. Compared to no drinking, both minimal and moderate drinking were associated with lesser decline on the MMSE and Trailmaking tests. Minimal drinking was also associated with lesser decline on tests of learning and naming. These associations were more pronounced when comparing current drinkers to former drinkers (quitters) than to lifelong abstainers. Conclusion: In a representative elderly cohort over an average of 7 years, a pattern of mild-to-moderate drinking, compared to not drinking, was associated with lesser average decline in cognitive domains over the same period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1210-1217
Number of pages8
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 25 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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