Cognitive decline in anxious and depressed individuals and the role of significant life events.
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Background The extent to which cognitive abilities decline over age depends on a lot of different factors and varies considerably between individuals. Among these factors are depression, anxiety and significant life events (SLE’s) as possible predictors of individual differences in cognitive aging. Objective To investigate the effects of depression and anxiety on cognitive decline and to investigate the role of significant life events in depression, anxiety and cognitive decline. Methods 16 participants screened with a depressive disorder and 21 participants screened with an anxiety disorder have been selected from the MAAS Study and compared to matched control participants on compound scores of memory, simple speed and interference to examine possible differences in cognitive impairment (cross-sectional) and cognitive decline (longitudinal), and compared on amount and severity of experienced SLE’s. Moreover, a second, experiment has been done with 522 participants from the MAAS study in which depressive and anxious symptoms were investigated as a predictor for cognitive impairment and decline. SLE’s were investigated as a predictor for depression and anxiety and for cognitive impairment and cognitive decline as well. Results In the first experiment, participants with an anxiety or depressive disorder did not significantly differ from control subjects on measures of cognitive impairment, cognitive decline, or SLE’s. In the second experiment, depressive and anxious symptoms had no significant effect on cognitive decline, but there was a significant effect of anxious symptoms on measures of speed and interference cross-sectionally. No effect was found for SLE’s as a predictor for depression and anxiety, or for cognitive performance and decline. Conclusions Except from some partial support for an effect of anxious symptoms on speed and interference, both experiments failed to find an effect of anxiety and depression on future cognitive decline. Furthermore, this study provides no evidence for SLE’s as a predictor for anxiety, depression or future cognitive decline.