Light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with better cognitive function among older male veterans receiving primary care
Primary Health Care
Among older persons, the effects of light to moderate alcohol consumption on cognitive function remain inadequately defined. The authors sought to determine whether light to moderate drinking is associated with better cognitive function among older men. Participants included men aged 65 years or older enrolled in a Veteran's Administration (VA) primary care clinic. Current (past 1 year) and lifetime use, cognitive functioning (as determined by the Trail Making Part B, Symbol Digit, FAS, and Hopkins Verbal Learning tests), and demographic, psychosocial, and medical status were obtained using standardized methods. Participants (N = 760) had a mean age of 74 (range, 65-89) years. Current drinkers (n = 509) as compared with never (n = 31) and former (n = 220) drinkers demonstrated significantly better cognitive performance on 3 (Trails B, Symbol Digit, and Hopkins Verbal Learning) of the 4 tests (P < .01 for all comparisons). In multiple linear regression models, current light to moderate drinking (ie, 7 or fewer drinks per week), as compared to a reference group of never and former drinkers, was associated with better performance on the Trails B, Symbol Digit, and Hopkins Verbal Learning tests (P < .01 for all comparisons). The number of years drinking 7 or fewer drinks per week also was independently associated with better cognitive performance. Current consumption of 7 or fewer drinks per week and the number of years drinking at this level are both associated with better cognitive performance in older male veterans receiving primary care. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that light to moderate drinking confers cognitive benefits to older persons.