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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1996 Jan;44(1):44-9.

Memory complaints and memory impairment in older individuals.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Free University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

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