Today Age Scotland and Drink Wise Age Well have called for action to ensure more people are aware of the link between alcohol consumption and dementia. The Charities have jointly produced a new advice publication Alcohol and Dementia which highlights the findings of studies which show that people who drink heavily are more likely to develop dementia than those who link moderately. Heavy drinkers are at risk of developing forms of alcohol-related dementia such as Wernicke – Korsakoff Syndrome.
While the link between heavy drinking and conditions like heart disease and liver disease is better understood as a result of extensive public health campaigns, far fewer people are aware of the link with dementia. Last year a Scottish Social Attitudes Survey showed that for each of the five risk factors for dementia, including heavy drinking, only between a quarter and a half of respondents correctly identified these behaviours as risk factors.1
Studies have also shown that drinking alcohol earlier in life may substantially increase the risks of developing early-onset dementia. Alcohol misuse in young adults is the biggest risk factor for men who develop early-onset dementia (occurring before the age of 65).2
Alcohol and Dementia has been published through Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia Project, which is funded by the Life Changes Trust. The Life Changes Trust is funded by the Big Lottery.
Keith Robson, Deputy Chief Executive of Age Scotland said:
“Alcohol plays an increasing part in our society at this time of year, but it is important for all of us to be aware that not only heart disease and kidney problems can result from heavy drinking, but forms of dementia too. Loneliness and isolation can also be factors in people drinking more, and that is why Age Scotland believes it is so vital there is greater awareness of the risks attached. This publication provides information on the impact of drinking on the brain and on NHS guidelines on units of consumption as well. Age Scotland is committed to increasing awareness of dementia and risk factors for dementia through our Early Stage Dementia Project, and Alcohol and Dementia is an important part of that work.”
Julie Breslin, Head of Programme for Drink Wise, Age Well said:
“Alcohol consumption and related harms are increasing in older adults but reducing in younger people, and as our ageing population grows we may start to see conditions such as dementia become more common. However many older adults want to maintain their independence, health and well-being for as long as possible and it is important that reliable and accessible information, like this alcohol and dementia resource, is made available so they can make healthier choices”.
1. Attitudes to dementia: Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014
2. P Nordström et al, “Risk factors in late adolescence for young onset dementia in men: a nationwide cohort study”, JAMA Internal Medicine, (2013), Vol 173 No 17, pp. 1612 - 1618