Memory complaints and memory impairment in older individuals

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1996 Jan;44(1):44-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1996.tb05636.x.


Objective: To examine whether subjective memory complaints, measured with a series of four questions, are associated with performance on cognitive tests.

Design: Cross-sectional study of individuals, 65 to 85 years of age, who lived in the community of Amsterdam.

Participants: Individuals were selected randomly within 5-year age strata from the patient lists of 30 general practitioners. Of the 4051 participants, 2537 nondepressed and nondemented respondents were included in the analysis.

Measures: Four categories of subjective memory complaints were developed on the basis of answers to questions about the presence or absence of memory complaints and memory-related problems in daily functioning. Tests of cognitive function were derived from the subscales of the CAMCOG.

Main results: Individuals with complaints and memory-related problems performed more poorly on tests of memory and memory-related functions. This relationship was strengthened after adjusting for age, sex, and premorbid verbal intelligence, all of which were related to complaint status and to performance on cognitive tests.

Conclusion: Simple questions about memory function are related to memory performance in nondepressed, nondemented community-dwelling older people. Subjective memory complaints may be a promising indicator of memory impairment that signals the need for follow-up.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales*
  • Random Allocation
  • Self-Assessment*