Subjective memory decline in healthy community-dwelling elders. What does this complain mean?

Acta Neurol Scand. 2010 Mar;121(3):194-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.2009.01159.x. Epub 2009 Dec 10.


Objectives: Subjective feelings of memory decline are fairly common among the elderly. The causes of this are heterogeneous, and may be related to both affective and cognitive disorders. We attempted to explore the associations between subjective and cognitive measures.

Materials and methods: Healthy subjects were studied. They completed questionnaires regarding memory difficulties and lifestyle habits, the Geriatric Depression scale (GDS), and the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Cognitive functions were tested using the Mini-Mental State Exam and supplemented with NeuroTrax, a computerized neurophysiological battery. Univariate logistic regression model was applied to estimate odd ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals of associations.

Results: Of 341 consecutive non-depressed subjects, 257 participants (75.4%) reported subjective memory decline (SMD). Subjects with and without SMD did not differ in age, gender, education, marital status, employment and life-style. Subjects with SMD had elevated GDS scores (OR = 1.14, 95% CI: 1.003-1.29), white anxiety level showed a tendency to be increased (OR = 1.03, 95% CI: 0.99-1.06). Comparison of cognitive performance has not revealed differences in cognitive domains between subjects with and without SMD.

Conclusions: SMD in healthy elderly people is associated with sub-clinical depression even among those without objectively measured cognitive decline.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Memory Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Odds Ratio
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires