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January 1991

Memory Complaints in Older Adults: Fact or Fiction?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology (Drs Bolla and Bleecker and Mss Lindgren and Bonaccorsy) and Psychiatry and Behavioral Science (Dr Bolla), The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md.

Arch Neurol. 1991;48(1):61-64. doi:10.1001/archneur.1991.00530130069022

• Complaints of poor memory by patients may be an early symptom of a pathologic process like Alzheimer's disease. It is therefore important to determine if patients' complaints of memory impairments are an accurate reflection of real memory disturbance. The relationship between memory complaints (metamemory) and objective memory performance, mood, age, verbal intelligence, and sex was examined in a group of 199 healthy, community dwelling adults (39 to 89 years old). Memory complaints demonstrated a stronger association with depressed mood than with performance on memory tests. Increasing reports of depressive symptoms were associated with more overall memory complaints. Verbal intelligence, age, and sex also contributed to memory complaints. Patients with higher verbal intelligence reported fewer complaints and placed less emphasis on forgetting. Older individuals reported greater frequency of forgetting and greater frequency of using memory techniques. Specific types of memory complaints, seriousness of forgetting, and types of memory aids employed are also described. These results showed that self-rating of memory disturbance by older adults may be related more to depressed mood than to poor performance on memory tests.

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