15 september 2010

High alcohol consumption in middle-aged adults is associated with poorer cognitive performance only in the low socio-economic group. Results from the GAZEL cohort study

Aims: To examine the association of alcohol consumption over 10 years with cognitive performance in different socio-economic groups.

Design: Prospective cohort study, the French GAZEL study. Setting France. Participants Employees of France's national electricity and gas company.

Measurements: Alcohol intake was assessed annually, beginning in 1992, using questions on frequency and quantity of alcoholic beverages consumed in a week; used to define mean consumption and trajectory of alcohol intake over 10 years. Cognitive performance among participants aged >/= 55 years (n = 4073) was assessed in 2002-04 using the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST), a measure of psychomotor speed, attention and reasoning. Occupational position at age 35 and education were used as the markers of socio-economic position. Findings All analyses were stratified by socio-economic position. In the low occupational group, participants consuming a mean of more than 21 drinks per week had 2.1 points lower (95% CI: -3.9, -0.3) DSST score compared to those consuming four to 14 drinks per week. In participants with primary school education, the corresponding difference was 3.6 points (95% CI: -7.1, -0.0). No association between alcohol consumption and cognitive performance was observed in the intermediate and high socio-economic groups, defined using either occupation or education. Analysis of trajectories of alcohol consumption showed that in the low socio-economic groups large increase or decrease in alcohol consumption was associated with lower cognitive scores compared to stable consumption.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that high alcohol consumption is associated with poorer cognitive performance only in the low socio-economic group, due possibly to greater cognitive reserve in the higher socio-economic groups.

Additional Info

  • Authors

    Sabia S.; Gueguen A.; Berr C.; Berkman L.; Ankri J.; Goldberg M.; Zins M.; Singh-Manoux A.
  • Issue

    Addiction. 2011 Jan;106(1):93-101
  • Published Date

    15 september 2010