Alzheimer's Association International Conference

Alzheimer's Association International Conference

July 15, 2019
1 min read

Female veterans with alcohol use disorder at increased risk for dementia

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Older female veterans with alcohol use disorder were three times more likely to develop dementia than women without alcohol use disorder, according to study findings presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

Prior research has reported that alcohol use disorder (AUD) may increase the risk for dementia, and that rates of lifetime AUD are twice as high among female veterans than among civilian women, according to Amber Bahorik, PhD, from the University of California, San Francisco. Despite these findings, little is known about dementia risk among older female veterans with AUDs.

Bahorik reported findings from a cohort study that included female veterans aged 55 years and older with AUD followed at Veterans Health Administration medical centers and 2,207 age-matched female veterans without AUD. At baseline, researchers identified AUD, substance use disorder (SUD), smoking, psychiatric and medical comorbidities. Using Fine-Gray proportional hazards models, they determined the link between AUD and risk for dementia during follow-up, after accounting for the competing risk of death.

Overall, 82 female veterans developed dementia during follow-up (mean = 3.6 years). The results showed that female veterans with AUD were at significantly higher risk for dementia than those without AUD after adjustment for confounders (adjusted HR = 4.12; 95% CI, 2.27-7.47).

Bahorik and colleagues also found that even after adjusting for smoking, anxiety, depression, COPD, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, diabetes, stroke and hypertension, female veterans with AUD were more likely to develop dementia than those without AUD (adjusted HR = 3.06; 95% CI, 1.83-5.13). Furthermore, the results were similar in sensitivity analyses that excluded 349 female veterans with SUD (adjusted HR = 3.38; 95% CI, 2-5.7).

“This study highlights the need to consider alcohol use, especially alcohol use disorder, when evaluating dementia risk profiles,” said Bahorik in a press release. “It also emphasizes the need for programs and services to address the growing problems of both AUD and dementia in older women.” – by Savannah Demko


Bahorik A, et al. Alcohol use disorders in female veterans and the impact on dementia risk. Presented at: Alzheimer's Association International Conference; July 14-18, 2019; Los Angeles.

Disclosures: Healio Psychiatry was unable to confirm any relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.