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
Article first published online: 15 SEP 2010
© 2010 The Authors, Addiction © 2010 Society for the Study of Addiction
Volume 106, Issue 1, pages 93–101, January 2011
How to Cite
Sabia, S., Guéguen, A., Berr, C., Berkman, L., Ankri, J., Goldberg, M., Zins, M. and Singh-Manoux, A. (2011), 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. Addiction, 106: 93–101. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03106.x
- Issue published online: 10 DEC 2010
- Article first published online: 15 SEP 2010
- Submitted 19 January 2010; initial review completed 26 March 2010; final version accepted 9 June 2010
- Alcohol consumption;
- cognitive reserve;
- Digit Symbol Substitution Test;
- socio-economic position
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.
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.