Alcohol and Cognitive Function in Aging: Can Drinking Help?

The relation between drinking alcohol and cognitive function in aging is important. Most people drink and most look forward to mentally active aging. But is there a connection between the two?

Free Cognitive Quizzes!

Alcohol and Cognitive Function

I. The Study

Researchers wanted to learn the answer. So they looked at people drawn from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS).

That’s a nationally representative sample of US middle-aged and older adults. 

Participants had taken an initial cognitive test. Then researchers chose those who had taken at least three additional tests. That was during a 13 year period. As a result, researchers analyzed 19,887 people. Researchers studied people over an average of 9.1 years.

Researchers focused on rates of change for the cognitive domains of mental status, word recall, and vocabulary. To do so, they identified two groups. One was a consistently low group. It had low cognitive scores throughout the study period. The other was a consistently high group. It had high cognitive scores throughout the study.

The researchers grouped drinkers by consumption level. There were never drinkers, former drinkers, and current drinkers. Among drinkers, low to moderate drinking women had fewer than eight drinks per week. For men it was fewer than 15 per week. Heavy drinking women had eight or more drinks weekly. For men, heavy drinking was having 15 or more drinks per week.

Researchers then made comparisons with never drinkers. low to moderate drinkers were much more likely to have consistently high cognitive scores. In addition, they also had much lower annual rates of decline in cognitive functions.

Most research finds that the benefits of drinking in moderation apply to all forms. That is, to wine, beer, and spirits or liquor.

II. Resources

   Readings (Popular)

Readings (Scientific)


    • This site gives no advice. Please see your doctor with questions.