Alcohol use disorders are the most important preventable risk factors for the onset of all types of dementia, especially early-onset dementia, according to a nationwide observational study of over one million adults diagnosed with dementia in France.

The study, published in The Lancet Public Health, looked specifically at the effect of alcohol use disorders, and included people who had been diagnosed with mental and behavioural disorders or chronic diseases that were attributable to chronic harmful use of alcohol.

Of the 57,000 cases of early-onset dementia (before the age of 65), the majority (57%) were related to chronic heavy drinking.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines chronic heavy drinking as consuming more than 60 grams pure alcohol on average per day for men (4-5 standard drinks) and 40 grams (about 3 standard drinks) per day for women.

As a result of the strong association found in this study, the authors suggest that screening, brief interventions for heavy drinking, and treatment for alcohol use disorders should be implemented to reduce the alcohol-attributable burden of dementia.

The authors noted that only the most severe cases of alcohol use disorder – ones involving hospitalization – were included in the study.  This could mean that, because of ongoing stigma regarding the reporting of alcohol-use disorders, the association between chronic heavy drinking and dementia may be even stronger.

Paper: “Contribution of alcohol use disorders to the burden of dementia in France 2008–13: a nationwide retrospective cohort study”
Reprinted from materials provided by The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).