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Age Ageing. 2007 May;36(3):256-61. Epub 2007 Mar 12.

Moderate alcohol consumption in older adults is associated with better cognition and well-being than abstinence.

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  • 1Epidemiology and Public Health Group, Peninsula Medical School, RD&E Wonford Site, Exeter, UK.



There is evidence of a U-shaped association between alcohol consumption and physical health outcomes in older people, such that moderate drinking is associated with better outcomes than abstinence or heavy drinking, but whether moderate drinking in older people is associated with better cognition and mental health than non-drinking has not been explored.


To assess the relationship between drinking and cognitive health in middle-aged and older people.


Prospective observational study.


Six thousand and five individuals aged 50 and over who participated in Wave 1 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and who were not problem drinkers. Exposure and outcome variables: we examined cognitive function, subjective well-being, and depressive symptoms, and compared the risks associated with having never drunk alcohol, having quit drinking, and drinking at <1, <2 and >2 drinks per day.


For both men and women, better cognition and subjective well-being, and fewer depressive symptoms, were associated with moderate levels of alcohol consumption than with never having drunk any.


In middle-aged and older men and women, moderate levels of alcohol consumption are associated with better cognitive health than abstinence.

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