Cognitive impairment/decline linked to problematic alcohol drinking in South Koreans

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  • Problematic alcohol drinking may increase the risk for cognitive impairment/decline.

Study design

  • In the Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging, 5,157 participants aged 45-y or older with normal cognitive function (Korean Mini-Mental State Examination [K-MMSE] ≥24) in 2006 completed the CAGE (Cut down, Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener) questionnaire regarding alcohol drinking behavior.

Key results

  • Participants with vs without problematic drinking in 2006 had a faster decline in cognitive function (P<.05) during 6-y of follow-up.
  • Among those with low normal K-MMSE score (24-26) at baseline, cognitive decline was more pronounced (P<.05), as was onset of severe cognitive impairment (SCI; K-MMSE ≤17; adjusted OR [aOR], 3.76; 95% CI, 1.46-9.67).
  • Among men, abstinence vs non-problematic drinking was associated with higher risk for developing SCI (aOR, 1.62; 95% CI, 1.09-2.39).


  • Reliance on self-report for drinking behavior.
  • Findings might not apply to populations outside South Korea.

Why this matters

  • This is the first study of the relationship between drinking behavior and cognitive decline in an Asian population.
  • Interventions targeting alcohol abuse may help prevent cognitive impairment, although further research is needed.