Depression, health comorbidities, cognitive symptoms and their functional impact: Not just a geriatric problem

Sophia Miryam Schüssler-Fiorenza Rose, Nicholas T. Bott, Erin E. Heinemeyer, Nathan C. Hantke, Christine E. Gould, Rayna B. Hirst, Joshua T. Jordan, Sherry A. Beaudreau, Ruth O'Hara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare the prevalence of cognitive symptoms and their functional impact by age group accounting for depression and number of other health conditions. Methods: We analyzed data from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a population-based, cross-sectional telephone survey of US adults. Twenty-one US states asked participants (n = 131, 273) about cognitive symptoms (worsening confusion or memory loss in the past year) and their functional impact (interference with activities and need for assistance). We analyzed the association between age, depression history and cognitive symptoms and their functional impact using logistic regression and adjusted for demographic characteristics and other health condition count. Results: There was a significant interaction between age and depression (p < 0.0001). In adults reporting depression, the adjusted odds of cognitive symptoms in younger age groups (<75 years) were comparable or greater to those in the oldest age group (≥75 years) with a peak in the middle age (45–54 years) group (OR 1.9 (95% Confidence Interval: 1.4–2.5). In adults without depression, adults <75 years had a significantly lower adjusted odds of cognitive symptoms compared to the oldest age group with the exception of the middle-aged group where the difference was not statistically significant. Over half of adults under age 65 with depression reported that cognitive symptoms interfered with life activities compared to 35.7% of adults ≥65 years. Conclusions: Cognitive symptoms are not universally higher in older adults; middle-aged adults are also particularly vulnerable. Given the adverse functional impact associated with cognitive symptoms in younger adults, clinicians should assess cognitive symptoms and their functional impact in adults of all ages and consider treatments that impact both cognition and functional domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-192
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Age
  • Behavioral risk factor surveillance system (BRFSS)
  • Cognitive symptoms
  • Comorbid health conditions
  • Depression
  • Functional impact

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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