Subjective cognitive complaints at age 70: associations with amyloid and mental health

Objective

To investigate subjective cognitive decline (SCD) in relation to β-amyloid pathology and to test for associations with anxiety, depression, objective cognition and family history of dementia in the Insight 46 study.

Methods

Cognitively unimpaired ~70-year-old participants, all born in the same week in 1946 (n=460, 49% female, 18% amyloid-positive), underwent assessments including the SCD-Questionnaire (MyCog). MyCog scores were evaluated with respect to 18F-Florbetapir-PET amyloid status (positive/negative). Associations with anxiety, depression, objective cognition (measured by the Preclinical Alzheimer Cognitive Composite, PACC) and family history of dementia were also investigated. The informant’s perspective on SCD was evaluated in relation to MyCog score.

Results

Anxiety (mean (SD) trait anxiety score: 4.4 (3.9)) was associated with higher MyCog scores, especially in women. MyCog scores were higher in amyloid-positive compared with amyloid-negative individuals (adjusted means (95% CIs): 5.3 (4.4 to 6.1) vs 4.3 (3.9 to 4.7), p=0.044), after accounting for differences in anxiety. PACC (mean (SD) –0.05 (0.68)) and family history of dementia (prevalence: 23.9%) were not independently associated with MyCog scores. The informant’s perception of SCD was generally in accordance with that of the participant.

Conclusions

This cross-sectional study demonstrates that symptoms of SCD are associated with both β-amyloid pathology, and more consistently, trait anxiety in a population-based cohort of older adults, at an age when those who are destined to develop dementia are still likely to be some years away from symptoms. This highlights the necessity of considering anxiety symptoms when assessing Alzheimer’s disease pathology and SCD.

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