Background: Subjective cognitive complaints have been included in diagnostic concepts such as Aging-Associated Cognitive Decline (AACD) aiming to identify older adults with cognitive impairments at high risk of developing dementia. Although several studies in normal aging have found that subjective cognitive complaints are related to depressive affect and personality factors, little is known as to whether this is also true for older adults with AACD.
Methods: In 123 older adults diagnosed with AACD and 291 controls, the role of actual cognitive performance, depressive affect, neuroticism and conscientiousness in predicting subjective cognitive complaints was investigated. In separate ordinary least squares regression analyses for both groups with gender, age, years of schooling, cognitive performance, depressive affect, neuroticism and conscientiousness as predicting variables, in the control participants, gender, age, depressive affect and neuroticism were related to subjective cognitive complaints, whereas in the AACD participants only gender and neuroticism accounted for variance in subjective cognitive complaints. Testing for group differences in predictive power, revealed differential effects for gender, depressive affect and neuroticism.
Conclusions: As subjective cognitive complaints in the AACD group were related to neuroticism and gender rather than to cognitive performance, their inclusion in diagnostic concepts such as AACD should be revaluated. However, the nature of subjective cognitive complaints might be qualitatively different in persons diagnosed with AACD compared to those stated by normal older adults.