Change in perceived stress and 2-year change in cognitive function among older adults: The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing

Stress Health. 2018 Aug;34(3):403-410. doi: 10.1002/smi.2799. Epub 2018 Jan 30.


Prolonged or severe stress can adversely affect older adults' cognitive function, but population-based studies investigating this relationship over time are rare. Previous studies have largely focused on stress either evaluated at a single time point or linked to specific life events. This study aimed to investigate whether a change in perceived stress over 2 years predicts a change in cognitive performance over the same time period in a population-based sample of older adults. Data from the first 2 waves of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing were analyzed. Five thousand and seventy adults aged 50 and older completed the 4-item Perceived Stress Scale and measures of verbal fluency, immediate and delayed word recall 2 years apart. A first differences regression model revealed that the change in stress over 2 years was inversely associated with a change in immediate word recall performance, even after adjustment for change in possible confounders (B = -0.030, 95% CI [-.056, -.004], p < .05). No association was observed for delayed recall or verbal fluency performance. Change in perceived stress is inversely correlated with change in immediate recall, even over a short period. Stress modifying interventions could potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline associated with ageing.

Keywords: ageing; cognition; longitudinal; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*