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Alcohol use disorders a major risk for dementia, especially early-onset

Alcohol use disorders are a major risk factor for all types of dementia, especially early-onset dementia, study shows


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Alcohol use disorders are a major risk factor for all types of dementia, especially early-onset dementia, a study shows.

A nationwide observational study in France looked at over one million adults diagnosed with dementia between 2008 and 2013.

Of the 57,000 cases of early-onset dementia – those before the age of 65 – it found 39% were alcohol-related by definition and 18% had an additional diagnosis of alcohol use disorders.

Overall, alcohol use disorders – harmful drinking and alcohol dependence – were associated with a three times greater risk of all types of dementia and were the strongest modifiable risk factor for dementia onset.

Alcohol dependency was the mostly commonly diagnosed alcohol use disorder, accounting for 86% of cases.

Screening recommended

As a result of the strong association found in the study, the authors suggest that alcohol 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, led by Michael Schwarzinger of the French Translational Health Economics Network, suggest that screening could be part of nurses’ routine work but within protected time.

In an associated comment piece also published in the Lancet Public Health, Clive Ballard and Iain Lang of the University of Exeter Medical School say: ‘We should move forward with clear public health messages about the relationship between both alcohol use disorders and alcohol consumption, respectively, and dementia.

‘We might want to consider the extent to which the growing prevalence of dementia worldwide might be curbed by reductions in population-level alcohol consumption.’


Schwarzinger M et al (2018) Contribution of alcohol use disorders to the burden of dementia in France 2008–13: a nationwide retrospective cohort study. Lancet Public Health. doi:10.1016/S2468-2667(18)30022-7

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