Subjective memory complaints in elders: depression, anxiety, or cognitive decline?

Acta Neurol Scand. 2013 May;127(5):344-50. doi: 10.1111/ane.12038. Epub 2012 Dec 6.


Objectives: To study the association of subjective memory complaints (SMC) with affective state and cognitive performance in elders.

Materials and methods: We studied community dwelling elderly persons with normal physical examination. Participants completed questionnaires regarding memory difficulties and lifestyle habits, the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) and the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Depending on their answers to the question about their memory condition, participants were divided into complainers and non-complainers and to five groups according to their MMSE scores. These data have been compared to objective cognitive performance according to Mindstreams - a computerized neuropsychological battery. A logistic regression was performed to evaluate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for those factors, which were associated with SMС (dependent variable).

Results: Of 636 consecutive subjects (61% females), 507 participants (79.7%) had SMС. Presence of SMC was inversely correlated with MMSE scores, (r = -0.108; P for trend = 0.007). GDS and STAI scores were higher among subjects with SMC (OR = 1.23: CI 95%: 1.1-1.36 and OR = 1.03: CI 95%: 1.01-1.07, respectively). SMC did not correlate with objective cognitive performance measured by Mindstreams.

Conclusions: Subjective memory complaints are associated with sub-syndromal depression and anxiety in healthy cognitively normal elders.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires