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Middle-Aged Drinkers at risk of Memory Problems

Update Date: Aug 01, 2014 09:27 AM EDT

Even though alcohol is a popular beverage among adults throughout the world, several studies have tied the substance to negative health consequences. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of alcohol on middle-aged adults who have a history of alcohol abuse. The researchers discovered that this group of people had a greater risk of developing severe memory complications as they age.

"We already know there is an association between dementia risk and levels of current alcohol consumption -- that understanding is based on asking older people how much they drink and then observing whether they develop problems," said the study's leader, Dr. Iain Lang of University of Exeter Medical School in England, in a university news release reported by Philly. "What we did here is investigate the relatively unknown association between having a drinking problem at any point in life and experiencing problems with memory later in life."

For this study, the researchers analyzed data on 6,542 participants who were born between 1931 and 1941. The team interviewed the participants about their drinking patterns, which covered topics such as feeling guilty for the amount of alcohol they drank and whether or not they thought they should drink less. The researchers evaluated the participants' memory and health in 1992 and then every other year from 1996 to 2010. The researchers discovered that people who had a history of alcohol abuse were two times more likely to suffer from memory problems later on in life than people who did not consume as much alcohol.

"This small study shows that people who admitted to alcohol abuse at some point in their lives were twice as likely to have severe memory problems, and as the research relied on self-reporting that number may be even higher," Dr. Doug Brown, director of research and development at England's Alzheimer's Society, "However, there's also a hidden cost of alcohol abuse given the mounting evidence that alcohol abuse can also impact on [thinking and memory] later in life."

The study, "History of alcohol use disorders and risk of severe cognitive impairment: A nineteen-year prospective cohort study," was published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

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