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To determine associations of alcohol use with cognitive aging among middle-aged men.
1,608 male twins (mean 57 years at baseline) participated in up to three visits over 12 years, from 2003–2007 to 2016–2019. Participants were classified into six groups based on current and past self-reported alcohol use: lifetime abstainers, former drinkers, very light (1–4 drinks in past 14 days), light (5–14 drinks), moderate (15–28 drinks), and at-risk drinkers (>28 drinks in past 14 days). Linear mixed-effects regressions modeled cognitive trajectories by alcohol group, with time-based models evaluating rate of decline as a function of baseline alcohol use, and age-based models evaluating age-related differences in performance by current alcohol use. Analyses used standardized cognitive domain factor scores and adjusted for sociodemographic and health-related factors.
Performance decreased over time in all domains. Relative to very light drinkers, former drinkers showed worse verbal fluency performance, by –0.21 SD (95% CI –0.35, –0.07), and at-risk drinkers showed faster working memory decline, by 0.14 SD (95% CI 0.02, –0.20) per decade. There was no evidence of protective associations of light/moderate drinking on rate of decline. In age-based models, light drinkers displayed better memory performance at advanced ages than very light drinkers (+0.14 SD; 95% CI 0.02, 0.20 per 10-years older age); likely attributable to residual confounding or reverse association.
Alcohol consumption showed minimal associations with cognitive aging among middle-aged men. Stronger associations of alcohol with cognitive aging may become apparent at older ages, when cognitive abilities decline more rapidly.
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