Alcohol use and cognitive aging in middle-aged men: The Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging.

Alcohol use and cognitive aging in middle-aged men: The Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging.
Publication type
Journal Article
Year of Publication
Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Date published
2022 Apr 25

OBJECTIVE: To determine associations of alcohol use with cognitive aging among middle-aged men.

METHOD: 1,608 male twins (mean 57 years at baseline) participated in up to three visits over 12 years, from 2003-2007 to 2016-2019. Participants were classified into six groups based on current and past self-reported alcohol use: lifetime abstainers, former drinkers, very light (1-4 drinks in past 14 days), light (5-14 drinks), moderate (15-28 drinks), and at-risk drinkers (>28 drinks in past 14 days). Linear mixed-effects regressions modeled cognitive trajectories by alcohol group, with time-based models evaluating rate of decline as a function of baseline alcohol use, and age-based models evaluating age-related differences in performance by current alcohol use. Analyses used standardized cognitive domain factor scores and adjusted for sociodemographic and health-related factors.

RESULTS: Performance decreased over time in all domains. Relative to very light drinkers, former drinkers showed worse verbal fluency performance, by -0.21 SD (95% CI -0.35, -0.07), and at-risk drinkers showed faster working memory decline, by 0.14 SD (95% CI 0.02, -0.20) per decade. There was no evidence of protective associations of light/moderate drinking on rate of decline. In age-based models, light drinkers displayed better memory performance at advanced ages than very light drinkers (+0.14 SD; 95% CI 0.02, 0.20 per 10-years older age); likely attributable to residual confounding or reverse association.

CONCLUSIONS: Alcohol consumption showed minimal associations with cognitive aging among middle-aged men. Stronger associations of alcohol with cognitive aging may become apparent at older ages, when cognitive abilities decline more rapidly.