Teenage drinking raises risk of early dementia, study suggests

The Guardian 12 August 2013
Heavy drinking as a teenager is the single biggest risk factor for developing dementia unusually early, according to new research.

A study of almost 500,000 Swedish men identified “alcohol intoxication” as a late adolescent as the most serious of nine separate risk factors for young onset dementia (YOD) – that is, dementia before reaching 65.

Researchers led by Prof Peter Nordstrom, of Sweden’s Umea University, examined the records of 488,484 men conscripted into military service in the country at an average age of 18 between 1969 and 1979, 487 of whom were later diagnosed with YOD at an average age of 54.

About 800,000 people in the UK have dementia, of whom more than 17,000 developed it before they turned 65, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. Two-thirds of sufferers are women and a third are men.

Other “late adolescent risk factors” identified by the researchers included stroke, use of amtopsychotic drugs, depression, father’s dementia, drugs intoxication other than alcohol, low cognitive function at conscription, low height at conscription and high systolic blood pressure at conscription. Together the nine factors accounted for 68% of the 487 YOD cases found at follow-up.