Anxiety May Contribute to Memory Problems in Elderly

Old woman
Old woman
Anxiety appeared to affect both verbal and visual memory.

Anxiety may contribute to memory difficulties in elderly adults, according to study results published in the European Journal of Neurology.

Elderly patients in memory clinics often present with anxiety disorders, with or without depressive syndrome, but it was previously not known how these disorders affect cognitive performance.

In this study, researchers from the Clinical and Research Memory Center of Lyon, Hopital des Charpennes, Hospices Civils de Lyon, in Lyon, France selected 149 participants aged 65 years and older from the EVATEM cohort. All participants had memory complaints, but those with depression were excluded. Anxiety level was assessed with the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, and a neuropsychological battery, including an episodic memory test, was administered to examine verbal episodic memory, visual memory, executive function, visual-constructive, and instrumental functions.

The researchers found that participants with moderate to severe anxiety performed worse on retrieval (P=0.004) and storage processes (P=0.02) of verbal episodic memory and visual recognition memory (P=0.01) than participants with no anxiety. There was no relationship observed between anxiety and executive, visual-constructive, and instrumental functions.

Based on the results, the authors suggest that anxiety be considered as a factor of memory vulnerability in people with cognitive complaints.


Delphin-combe F, Bathsavanis A, Rouch I, et al. Relationship between anxiety and cognitive performance in an elderly population with a cognitive complaint. Eur J Neurol. 2016; doi:10.1111/ene.13004.