Subjective memory complaints in aging are associated with elevated cortisol levels
The origin and clinical significance of subjective memory complaints among middle aged and older individuals is not well understood. Associations with objective memory impairments, personality traits or mood disturbances have been reported. Elevated cortisol levels occur in aging and depression and causal links to cognitive or emotional problems have been suggested. The goal of this study was to investigate the associations between basal and feedback indices of cortisol regulation and subjective memory impairment in a sample of healthy middle aged and older subjects (mean age 61.8 years) with (n=27) and without (n=19) subjective memory complaints. Participants with memory complaints had both higher basal cortisol levels and higher cortisol levels after dexamethasone. There was a significant group by gender interaction for basal cortisol levels, where women without memory complaints showed significantly lower cortisol levels, whereas no such difference was found for the men. All effects were not due to slight differences in depression scores. Differences in personality traits or in stress susceptibility might underlie the present findings. Future studies of memory complaints should take a comprehensive approach including relevant endocrine parameters.