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Heavy Drinking in Middle Age Speeds Memory Loss in Men

Heavy Drinking in Middle Age Speeds Memory Loss in Men Consuming more than 2 and a half glasses of alcohol a day may significantly speed memory loss among middle-aged men, according to a new study in the journal Neurology.

Researcher found that the alcohol use can cause memory to decline by one to six years faster than those who had fewer drinks per day — a 50 year old man would have the memory of a 60-year-old.

Researchers did not find impairment in executive skills or memory loss among men who do not drink, former drinkers and light or moderate drinkers. Executive function deals with attention and reasoning skills in achieving a goal.

“Much of the research evidence about drinking and a relationship to memory and executive function is based on older populations,” said study author Séverine Sabia, Ph,D.

“Our study focused on middle-aged participants and suggests that heavy drinking is associated with faster decline in all areas of cognitive function in men.”

The study involved 5,054 men and 2,099 women whose drinking habits were assessed three times over 10 years. The subjects were part of an ongoing study of British civil servants called Whitehall II.

A drink was considered wine, beer or liquor. Then, when the participants were an average age of 56, they took their first memory and executive function test. The tests were repeated twice over the next 10 years.

The study found that there were no differences in memory and executive function decline between men who did not drink and those who were light or moderate drinkers — those who drank less than 20 grams, or less than 1 and 1/2 glasses per day.

In the United States, a standard drink is any drink that contains about 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A glass of wine, beer, or mixed drink each contains approximately the same amount of alcohol and counts as a single standard drink.

36 grams of alcohol is equal to about two and a half U.S.-sized glasses of wine, beer or a mixed drink.

“This study suggests that men consuming 36 grams per day or more of alcohol in midlife were more likely to experience faster 10-year cognitive decline in all cognitive domains; in women, there was weaker evidence of this effect occurring at 19 grams per day, but only for executive function,” noted the researchers.

“Our findings are in agreement with previous studies showing that moderate alcohol consumption is probably not deleterious for cognitive outcomes, but they also show that heavy alcohol consumption in midlife is likely to be harmful for cognitive aging, at least in men.”

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Middle aged man drinking photo by shutterstock.

Heavy Drinking in Middle Age Speeds Memory Loss in Men

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Heavy Drinking in Middle Age Speeds Memory Loss in Men. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 17 Jan 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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