People who don’t drink any alcohol in middle age may be at a greater risk of dementia later in their life, research has suggested. But will drinking alcohol reduce your risk of dementia? We look behind the headlines.
Researchers have found that not drinking alcohol in mid-life is associated with a higher risk of dementia.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that abstinence in middle age was associated with a 45 per cent higher risk of dementia later in life compared with people who consumed between one and 14 units of alcohol per week.
The researchers looked at the health of more than 9,000 civil servants in London over an average of 23 years. They used data from the long-running Whitehall II study, which is funded by the British Heart Foundation among others.
They also found that excessive drinkers, who drank more than 14 units per week, had a heightened risk of dementia. This risk increased the more that a person drank. With every seven-unit-per-week increase there was a 17 per cent rise in dementia risk.
The current government guidelines say men and women should drink no more than 14 units a week — equal to six pints of 4 per cent alcohol lager or ale, or six 175ml glasses of 13 per cent alcohol wine. This research supports that recommendation.
Alcohol consumption was measured during assessments between 1985 and 1993, when the participants were, on average, 50 years old.
There were 397 recorded cases of dementia, which were identified through hospital, mental health service and mortality records. The mean age at dementia diagnosis was 76 in the non-drinking group, 76 for the 1-14 units a week group, and 74 in the more than 14 units group.