Cognitive complaints correlate with depression rather than concurrent objective cognitive impairment in the successful aging evaluation baseline sample

J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 2014 Sep;27(3):181-7. doi: 10.1177/0891988714524628. Epub 2014 Mar 10.


Objective: Whether subjective cognitive complaints are suggestive of depression or concurrent cognitive impairment in older adults without dementia remains unclear. The current study examined this question in a large (N = 1000), randomly selected, community-based sample of adults aged 51 to 99 years without a formal diagnosis of dementia (Successful AGing Evaluation [SAGE] study).

Methods: The modified Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status (TICS-m) measured objective cognitive function, the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ) measured subjective cognitive complaints, and the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) measured depression. Spearman ρ correlations and linear regression models were conducted to examine the relationship among variables in the baseline SAGE sample.

Results: There was a weak association between TICS-m and CFQ scores (ρ = -.12); however, a moderate to large association was observed for CFQ and PHQ-9 (ρ = .44). Scores on the CFQ were not associated with TICS-m scores (β = -.03, P = .42) after controlling for PHQ-9 and variables of interest, such as age, gender, ethnicity, and physical functioning, while PHQ-9 was significantly associated with CFQ scores (β = .46, P < .001) after controlling for variables of interest.

Conclusions: Subjective cognitive complaints are more likely related to symptoms of depression rather than concurrent cognitive impairment in a large cross-section of community-dwelling adults without a formal diagnosis of dementia.

Keywords: aging; cognitive failures questionnaire (CFQ); cognitive function; depression; modified telephone interview for cognitive status (TICS-m); subjective cognitive complaints.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Cognition*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires