Objectives: Subjective memory complaints (SMC) are common in older people and previous research has shown an association with mood problems, such as depression and anxiety. SMC form part of the criteria for many definitions of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), but there is controversy over whether they should be included as they may be related more strongly to mood than to objective cognitive impairment. This study aims to clarify the relationship between mood and SMC in people with MCI.
Method: This paper reports an analysis of data from the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing study. Structured interviews were conducted with community-dwelling older people to assess a range of aspects of cognitive functioning and mood. Data from two time points approximately 24 months apart were used in this analysis. At baseline, participants without dementia or severe cognitive impairment were categorised into three groups according to cognitive status. Mood was investigated by assessing symptoms of anxiety and depression which were defined using a diagnostic algorithm. Associations were tested using logistic regression and chi square analyses.
Results: A clear association was shown between SMC and mood, both cross-sectionally and over time. The relationship between our two competing definitions of MCI suggested that mood problems were more strongly related to the presence of SMC than objective cognitive impairment.
Conclusion: SMC may be a function of anxiety and depression rather than being related to objective cognitive function. This questions whether SMC should be included in definitions of MCI.
Keywords: anxiety; cognitive impairment; depression.