Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other types of dementia are most common in the very elderly, and are associated with enormous health costs. With an excessively ageing population throughout the world, factors that affect the risk of cognitive decline and dementia are of great importance.

A review paper by Kim JW et al published in Psychiatry Investing on the association between alcohol consumption and cognition in the elderly. This paper provides an exceptional summary of the potential ways in which alcohol may affect cognitive function and the risk of dementia. They found both affects adversely and beneficially, as alcohol may have both a neuro toxic and neuro protective effect. These effects depend on the amount and drinking pattern.

Sahrish SarfrazMs. Sahrish Sarfraz is a Clinical Psychologist has done her Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Punjab. Her research project was based on “Social & Family Problems faced by Teenagers”. After completing her degree, she did an internship in Fountain House for six months. She worked as a Psychologist in drug rehabilitation center named PRCDRC (Professor Rasheed Chudhary Drug Rehab. Center). There, she got opportunity to practice her skills and deal with patients suffering from drug addiction and psychiatric illnesses.

Editor: Mr. Nadem Noor

Longitudinal and brain imaging studies in the elderly show that excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of cognitive dysfunction and dementia, but regular low to moderate alcohol intake may protect against cognitive decline & dementia and provide cardiovascular benefits.

A recent meta-analysis by Peters et al of subjects over the age of 65 in longitudinal studies concluded that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption, in contrast with abstinence, was linked with approximately 35-45% lower risk of cognitive decline or dementia.

At present, the mechanisms by which the moderate intake of wine and other alcoholic beverages reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases are much better defined than they are for cognition. Forum members agree with the authors that further research is needed to assess a potential role that alcohol may play in reducing the risk of dementia.


The most evidence is derived from studies of younger adults; the possible protective effects of alcohol may also apply to older adults, i.e. those at greatest risk from dementia. Lower levels of alcohol intake have proportionally greater effects in the elderly, due to their decreased lean body mass and lower percentage of body weight made up of water. Alcohol may also have negative impacts on other body systems in this age group and may be the cause of falls, with potentially more serious consequences than in youngsters.

Alcoholism is associated with wide cognitive problems including alcoholic dementia.  Heavy alcohol consumption has both immediate and long-term harmful effects on the brain and neuropsychological functioning. Heavy drinking accelerates shrinkage, or atrophy, of the brain, which in turn is a critical determinant of neurodegenerative changes and cognitive decline in aging.