Page last updated: Jan 2020

Alcohol consumption, drinking patterns, and cognitive performance in young adults

Long-term alcohol abuse is associated with poorer cognitive performance. However, the associations between light and moderate drinking and cognitive performance are less clear. Researchers assessed this association via cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses in a sample of 702 Dutch students.

At baseline, alcohol consumption was assessed using questionnaires and ecological momentary assessment (EMA) across four weeks (‘Wave 1’). Subsequently, cognitive performance, including memory, planning, and reasoning, was assessed at home using six standard cognition tests presented through an online platform. A year later, 436 students completed the four weeks of EMA and online cognitive testing (‘Wave 2’). In both waves, there was no association between alcohol consumption and cognitive performance. Further, alcohol consumption during Wave 1 was not related to cognitive performance at Wave 2. In addition, EMA-data-based drinking patterns, which varied widely between persons but were relatively consistent over time within persons, were also not associated with cognitive performance. Posthoc analyses of cognitive performance revealed higher within-person variance scores (from Wave 1 to Wave 2) than between-person variance scores (both Wave 1 and Wave 2).

In conclusion, no association was observed between alcohol consumption and cognitive performance in a large Dutch student sample. However, the online cognitive tests performed at home may not have been sensitive enough to pick up differences in cognitive performance associated with alcohol consumption.

Source: Alcohol Consumption, Drinking Patterns, and Cognitive Performance in Young Adults: A Cross- Sectional and Longitudinal Analysis. Hendriks H, van de Rest O, Snippe A, Kieboom J, Hogenelst K. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 13;12(1). pii: E200. nu12010200
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