advertisement
16 January 2014

Heavy drinking in middle age affects men's minds

Research suggests that middle-aged men who drink heavily show declines in memory, attention and reasoning skills up to six years earlier than those who don't drink as much.

0

Middle-aged men who drink heavily show declines in memory, attention and reasoning skills up to six years sooner than those drinking less alcohol, new research suggests.

European scientists found that men drinking 2.5 or more alcoholic beverages daily at midlife were more likely to experience more rapid mental losses over the next decade than light or moderate drinkers.

Heavy drinking's effects on women could not be accurately assessed because far fewer middle-aged females participated in the research, the study authors said.

"Heavy alcohol consumption is known to be detrimental for health, so the results were not surprising . . . they just add that [it's] also detrimental for the brain and the effects can be observed as [early] as 55 years old," said study author Severine Sabia. "There is no need to be an alcoholic to see a detrimental effect of heavy alcohol consumption on cognition [thinking skills]."

Impact on brain ageing

Sabia is a research associate in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London. The study was published online in the journal Neurology.

Scant research has examined the impact of alcohol consumption on brain ageing before old age, according to study documents. The new study, however, included data from more than 5000 men and 2000 women at midlife.

Read: Memory Loss – the facts

Participants' alcohol consumption was assessed three times in the 10 years before the first of three tests of memory and executive function, which deals with attention and reasoning skills needed in achieving goals. The first test was taken when participants were an average age of 56.

Moderate drinking not harmful

No differences were found in memory and executive function decline between men who didn't drink alcohol and those who were light or moderate drinkers, consuming up to two servings of beer, wine or liquor each day. Heavy drinkers exhibited mental declines between 1.5 and 6 years faster than those drinking less.

Although the study found an association between heavy drinking in men and earlier decline in mental function, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

"We have lots of clinical experience to suggest that heavy drinking can have adverse effects on cognition. But what was new about this study, at least in men, was that it didn't seem that light or moderate drinking" was more harmful than not drinking alcohol at all, said Dr. Marc Gordon, chief of neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, who was not involved in the research.


Read more:

Binge drinking bad for memory
Alcohol-induced blackouts


 
NEXT ON HEALTH24X

More:

ManNews
advertisement

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Mental health & your work »

How open are you about mental illness in the workplace?

Mental health in the workplace – what you can do to help

If you know that one of your colleagues suffers from a mental illness, would you be able to help them at work? Maligay Govender offers some helpful mental health "first aid" tips.

Sleep & You »

Sleep vs. no sleep Diagnosis of insomnia

6 things that are sabotaging your sleep

Kick these shut-eye killers to the kerb and make your whole life better – overnight.