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Anxiety and depression are both important correlates of cognitive function. However, longitudinal studies investigating how they covary with cognition within the same individual are scarce. We aimed to simultaneously estimate associations of between-person differences and within-person variability in anxiety and depression with cognitive performance in a sample of non-demented older people.
Participants in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921 study, a population-based narrow-age sample (mean age at wave 1 = 79 years, n = 535), were examined on five occasions across 13 years. Anxiety and depression were measured with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and cognitive performance was assessed with tests of reasoning, logical memory, and letter fluency. Data were analyzed using two-level linear mixed-effects models with within-person centering.
Divergent patterns were observed for anxiety and depression. For anxiety, between-person differences were more influential; people who scored higher on HADS anxiety relative to other same-aged individuals demonstrated poorer cognitive performance on average. For depression, on the other hand, time-varying within-person differences were more important; scoring higher than usual on HADS depression was associated with poorer cognitive performance relative to the average level for that participant. Adjusting for gender, childhood mental ability, emotional stability, and disease burden attenuated these associations.
The results from this study highlight the importance of addressing both between- and within-person effects of negative mood and suggest that anxiety and depression affect cognitive function in different ways. The current findings have implications for assessment and treatment of older age cognitive deficits.
Tests requiring the pronunciation of irregular words are used to estimate premorbid cognitive ability in patients with clinical diagnoses, and prior cognitive ability in normal ageing. However, scores on these word-reading tests correlate with scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), a widely used screening test for possible cognitive pathology. This study aimed to test whether the word-reading tests’ correlations with MMSE scores in healthy older people are explained by childhood IQ or education.
Wechsler Test of Adult Reading (WTAR), National Adult Reading Test (NART), MMSE scores and information about education were obtained from 1024 70-year-olds, for whom childhood intelligence test scores were available.
WTAR and NART were positively correlated with the MMSE (r ≈ 0.40, p < 0.001). The shared variance of WTAR and NART with MMSE was significantly attenuated by ~70% after controlling for childhood intelligence test scores. Education explained little additional variance in the association between the reading tests and the MMSE.
MMSE, which is often used to index cognitive impairment, is associated with prior cognitive ability. MMSE score is related to scores on WTAR and NART largely due to their shared association with prior ability. Obtained MMSE scores should be interpreted in the context of prior ability (or WTAR/NART score as its proxy).
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