OBJECTIVE: This study compared the relation between negative mood states
and memory in young and elderly subjects. METHOD: Forty-five normal,
healthy young volunteers (ages 19-35 years) and 45 normal, healthy elderly
volunteers (ages 60-78 years) were administered a verbal list-learning task
and self-rated scales of affective states. RESULTS: The elderly group, but
not the young group, consistently exhibited significant correlations
between their performance on verbal recall measures and their ratings of
their anxiety, depression, and withdrawal; i.e., within the elderly group,
higher levels of negative affective states were associated with poorer
memory. CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that aging modulates the
relation between emotional state and memory functions, and they are
consistent with the hypothesis that the elderly are more vulnerable than
the young to the adverse effects of negative emotional states on memory.
Therefore, even in normal elderly individuals without diagnosable
psychopathology, negative affective states (such as anxiety and depression)
may interfere with memory functioning.