Significance of subjective memory complaints in the clinical setting

J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 2014 Dec;27(4):259-65. doi: 10.1177/0891988714532018. Epub 2014 Apr 24.


Objective: The clinical significance of subjective memory complaints in the elderly participants, particularly regarding liability of subsequent progression to dementia, has been controversial. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that severity or type of subjective memory complaints reported by patients in a clinical setting may predict future conversion to dementia.

Methods: A cohort of nondemented patients with cognitive complaints, followed up for at least 2 years or until conversion to dementia, underwent a neuropsychological evaluation and detailed assessment of memory difficulties with the Subjective Memory Complaints (SMC) Scale.

Results: At baseline, patients who converted to dementia (36.8%) had less years of formal education and generally a worse performance in the neuropsychological assessment. There were no differences in the total SMC score between nonconverters (9.5 ± 4.2) and converters (8.9 ± 4.0, a nonsignificant difference), but nonconverters scored higher in several items of the scale.

Conclusion: For patients with cognitive complaints observed in a memory clinic setting, the severity of subjective memory complaints is not useful to predict future conversion to dementia.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Subjective Memory Complaints Scale; clinical setting; memory complaints; memory impairment; mild cognitive impairment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Disease Progression*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods*
  • Geriatric Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / classification
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Memory Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Socioeconomic Factors