A lot, it turns out.
A recent study of thousands of female veterans over 2004-2015 has found that those with alcohol use disorders were more than three times more likely to develop dementia than those without the disorder.
It’s an especially interesting study because of its size, its focus on the long term consequences of drinking, and its careful controls for depression and major diseases that could have been confounding factors.
Some studies of moderate drinking have shown no increased risk of dementia or even protective effects, but heavy drinking has consistently been shown to increase risk.
It’s not just people with an alcohol use disorder, either. In a 1975-2001 Finnish study of hundreds of twins, people who binge drank at least once a month were 3 times more likely to experience dementia, and people who passed out at least twice a year were 10 times more likely. You can binge drink and event pass out occasionally without meeting the diagnostic criteria for an AUD.
It’s important to remember that short-term drinking decisions can have long-term health consequences.
For more info like this, check out the “Drinking Risks” exercise in Drinker’s Helper! It’s free to try for a week. Start today.