Differences in quantitative methods for measuring subjective cognitive decline - results from a prospective memory clinic study

25 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Cognitive complaints occur frequently in elderly people and may be a risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline. Results from studies on subjective cognitive decline are difficult to compare due to variability in assessment methods, and little is known about how different methods influence reports of cognitive decline.

METHODS: The Subjective Memory Complaints Scale (SMC) and The Memory Complaint Questionnaire (MAC-Q) were applied in 121 mixed memory clinic patients with mild cognitive symptoms (mean MMSE = 26.8, SD 2.7). The scales were applied independently and raters were blinded to results from the other scale. Scales were not used for diagnostic classification. Cognitive performances and depressive symptoms were also rated. We studied the association between the two measures and investigated the scales' relation to depressive symptoms, age, and cognitive status.

RESULTS: SMC and MAC-Q were significantly associated (r = 0.44, N = 121, p = 0.015) and both scales had a wide range of scores. In this mixed cohort of patients, younger age was associated with higher SMC scores. There were no significant correlations between cognitive test performances and scales measuring subjective decline. Depression scores were significantly correlated to both scales measuring subjective decline. Linear regression models showed that age did not have a significant contribution to the variance in subjective memory beyond that of depressive symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS: Measures for subjective cognitive decline are not interchangeable when used in memory clinics and the application of different scales in previous studies is an important factor as to why studies show variability in the association between subjective cognitive decline and background data and/or clinical results. Careful consideration should be taken as to which questions are relevant and have validity when operationalizing subjective cognitive decline.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Psychogeriatrics
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1513-20
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016


  • Journal Article


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