Cognitive complaints, depressive symptoms, and cognitive impairment: are they related?

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011 Oct;59(10):1908-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2011.03589.x. Epub 2011 Sep 13.


Objectives: To examine whether concurrent depressive symptoms and self- and informant-reported cognitive impairments are related to cognitive complaints.

Design: Longitudinal aging study of the relationship between depressive symptoms, reported cognitive impairments, and cognitive complaints. Mixed-effects regression models were used to determine whether scores on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and Clinical Dementia Rating Scale (CDR) predicted cognitive complaints. The Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ) assessed cognitive complaints.

Setting: A community-dwelling sample in Baltimore, Maryland.

Participants: One hundred five cognitively normal older individuals with a mean baseline age of 75 followed for an average of 4 years.

Measurements: The CES-D measured depressive symptoms. The CDR Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB) measured self- and informant-reported impairment, and the CFQ measured cognitive complaints.

Results: Greater depressive symptoms and reported impairments are associated with higher CFQ scores. In addition, there was a significant interaction between depressive symptoms and reported impairment. Specifically, individuals without reported cognitive impairment had the strongest association between depressive symptoms and cognitive complaints. Finally, reported impairments interact with baseline age, suggesting that the relationship between reported impairments and cognitive complaints is strongest in individuals younger than 80.

Conclusion: These findings confirm a relationship between reported cognitive impairment and cognitive complaints in older individuals and highlight the extent to which age and depressive symptoms account for variation in complaints. These factors should be considered when interpreting cognitive complaints in a clinical setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Aged
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maryland
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires