Stress, Aging, Cognitive Decline, Memory, Executive Functioning
Few studies exist examining the relationship between self-reported stress and cognitive function in healthy nonpsychiatric older adults, and even less studies have examined whether high levels of self-reported stress accelerate the cognitive decline found in normal late-aging populations. A group of older nonpsychiatric adults, ages 54 years and above, were asked to complete three measures assessing their self-perceived stress over the past month, past year, and their lifetime. Sixty-one adults between the ages of 54 and 88 (52% female) participated in a second phase in which neuropsychological tasks were administered to assess three cognitive domains; memory, learning, and executive functioning. A hierarchical regression examined each of the three domain scores to explore whether self-perceived acute and chronic stress, after covaring for state anxiety, was related to neuropsychological performance. No statistically significant regressions were found, which was predicted for the learning domain, but contrary to the hypotheses for the memory and executive functioning domain. The potential influence of age in this study was explored in a series of ANOVAs examining the interactions between the three stress measures with state anxiety and age on the three cognitive domains. A statistically significant interaction was found between age and perceived lifetime stress when examining the memory domain score. In the young-old participants an increase in stress showed a non-significant relationship with a decrease in memory performance, while in the older-old participants the opposite non-significant tendency was found. The current study also partially replicated an earlier report of a relationship between an increase in recent self-reported stress and a decrease in performance on a specific divided attention task, and extended this finding to include older adults. While the majority of the study's hypotheses were not supported, these preliminary findings provide the field with interesting areas to explore in future studies.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Robinson, Diane, "Does Chronic Stress Accelerate Late-aging Cognitive Decline In Memory And Executive Functioning?" (2010). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4276.