Subjective age and cognitive functioning: a 10-year prospective study

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2014 Nov;22(11):1180-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2013.03.007. Epub 2013 Jul 17.


Objectives: The present study examines whether subjective age (i.e., how old or young individuals feel) is associated with cognitive functioning and tests potential mediators of this association.

Design: Data from the two waves of measurement of the Midlife in the United States survey were used, with assessments conducted at the first wave in 1994-1995 and at the second wave in 2004-2006.

Participants: A total of 1,352 men and women aged from 50 to 75 years at baseline (M: 59.32; SD: 6.72).

Measurements: Subjective age, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, and the covariates sex, age, education, marital status, and disease burden were assessed at baseline to predict episodic memory and executive function measured 10 years later.

Results: Multiple regression analysis revealed that a younger subjective age at baseline was prospectively associated with better episodic memory and executive function. Bootstrap analysis indicated that the association of subjective age with episodic memory and executive function was partially mediated by BMI and frequency of physical activity respectively.

Conclusion: Even after accounting for chronological age and other risk factors for cognitive decline, such as disease burden and sedentary lifestyle, the subjective experience of aging predicts cognitive functioning in old age.

Keywords: BMI; Subjective age; episodic memory; executive function; physical activity; prospective study.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cognition*
  • Educational Status
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Self Report
  • Sex Factors