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Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 2008;25:266–271
(DOI:10.1159/000115976)

Memory Decline and Depressive Symptoms in a Nationally Representative Sample of Older Adults: The Health and Retirement Study (1998–2004)

González H.M.a-c · Bowen M.E.a · Fisher G.G.c
aInstitute of Gerontology and bDepartment of Medicine and Public Health Sciences, Wayne State University, Detroit, Mich., and cInstitute of Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., USA
email Corresponding Author


 goto top of outline Key Words

  • Depression
  • Cognitive decline
  • Older adults
  • Learning
  • Memory

 goto top of outline Abstract

Background/Aims: Inconsistencies in the relationship between depression and cognitive decline may exist because the expected cognitive domains at risk have not been specified in previous study designs. We aimed to examine the relationship between depressive symptoms and verbal episodic memory functioning over time. Methods: Data from a prospective cohort study (Health and Retirement Study; 1998–2004; n = 18,465), a multistage national probability sample of older adults in the United States, were analyzed. Verbal learning and memory of a 10-word list learning task were the main outcomes. Depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies – Depression Scale) constituted the main predictor. Results: Depressive symptoms were associated with significantly lower immediate (–0.05; p < 0.001) and delayed (–0.06; p < 0.001) word list recall scores after controlling for demographics and baseline and time-varying cardiovascular disease risks and diseases. Conclusions: In this US national study of older adults, elevated depressive symptoms were associated with declines in episodic learning and memory over time. These associations were little affected by the demographic or medical conditions considered in this study. The results suggest that learning and memory decline may be a long-term feature associated with depressive symptoms among the nation’s older adult population.

Copyright © 2008 S. Karger AG, Basel


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 goto top of outline Author Contacts

Hector M. González
Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University
87 East Ferry Street, 226 Knapp Building
Detroit, MI 48202 (USA)
Tel. +1 313 577 2297, Fax +1 313 875 0127, E-Mail hmgonzalez@med.wayne.edu


 goto top of outline Article Information

Accepted: December 1, 2007
Published online: February 13, 2008
Number of Print Pages : 6
Number of Figures : 0, Number of Tables : 3, Number of References : 31


 goto top of outline Publication Details

Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders

Vol. 25, No. 3, Year 2008 (Cover Date: March 2008)

Journal Editor: Chan-Palay, V. (New York, N.Y.)
ISSN: 1420–8008 (Print), eISSN: 1421–9824 (Online)

For additional information: http://www.karger.com/DEM


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