The Effects of Alcohol Use on Prospective Memory: A Systematic Literature Review
Objectives: Alcohol use remains a public health concern with accumulating evidence pointing to alcohol-associated prospective memory (PM) deficits. PM is the cognitive ability to remember to perform an intended action at some point in the future. Following PRISMA guidelines, we searched the evidence base to identify and explore the evidence of a relationship between alcohol use and PM. Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search in Medline, Embase, Pubmed, CINAHL, PsycINFO and Web of Science databases. Studies were included if they met the following criteria: English language publication, healthy adult participants (16 years and over), primary data on the effects of alcohol on PM. Results: Eight peer-reviewed studies were eligible for inclusion, of which five were randomized controlled trials examining the acute effects of a mild dose of alcohol and three were cross-sectional studies assessing the long-term effects of different drinking patterns on PM. Four main findings were supported by the literature: (1) compared with placebo, an acute administration of a mild alcohol dose to healthy social drinkers may lead to poorer PM performance, (2) alcohol consumption over the recommended weekly units can be associated with impaired PM function, (3) other cognitive domains can play a contributing role in alcohol-induced PM impairment, and (4) following future event simulation alcohol-induced PM impairment may be improved. Conclusion: Alcohol consumption potentially impairs PM, even at a low modest dose. Considering the small number of studies and their methodological flaws, additional research is needed to decipher the alcohol-PM relationship and provide further supporting evidence.