Alcohol Use Disorder a Major Risk Factor in Dementia Onset

Alcohol use disorders were a major risk factor for onset of all types of dementia, particularly early-onset dementia, according to the findings of a retrospective cohort study published in The Lancet.

Researchers analyzed a nationwide cohort of adult (≥20 years) patients admitted to hospitals in France between 2008 and 2013. Of 31.6 million adults discharged during this timeline, 1.1 million were diagnosed with dementia and included in the study.

Researchers separated dementia onset into 3 categories for analysis: alcohol-related brain damage, vascular dementia, and other dementia, including Alzheimer disease. Analyses were further stratified by sex, given the lower life expectancy and higher incidence of most dementia risk factors in men.

Alcohol use disorders were most strongly implicated in early-onset dementia; of the 57,353 people with early-onset dementia, most had either alcohol-related dementia (38.9%) or had an additional diagnosis of alcohol use disorder (17.6%). Alcohol use disorders were also the strongest modifiable risk factor for dementia onset across sexes, with an adjusted hazard ratio of 3.36 for men (95% CI, 3.31-3.41) and 3.34 for women (95% CI, 3.28-3.41). Compared with alcohol-related brain damage, dementia onset was significantly delayed in other dementia types (P <.0001). Men diagnosed with alcohol-related brain damage had a median age of 60, whereas men with vascular dementia and other dementia had median ages of 82 and 83, respectively.

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Alcohol use disorders were also significantly associated with all other risk factors for dementia onset, including alcohol-related conditions, vascular risk factors, and cardiovascular diseases (all P <.0001).

These findings support the recognition of alcohol use disorders as a major risk factor for all dementia types. Researchers suggested that clinicians implement screening for drinking habits as part of routine medical care and offer intervention when necessary.


Schwarzinger M, Pollock BG, Hasan OSM, Dufouil C, Rehm J; QalyDays Study Group. Contribution of alcohol use disorders to the burden of dementia in France 2008-13: a nationwide retrospective cohort study [published online February 20, 2018]. Lancet. doi:10.1016/S2468-2667(18)30022-7