Reciprocal associations of posttraumatic stress symptoms and cognitive decline in community-dwelling older adults: The mediating role of depression

E. Cohn-Schwartz, Y. Hoffman, A. Shrira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: People with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have cognitive decline, a risk which can be particularly threatening at old age. However, it is yet unclear whether initial cognitive decline renders one more susceptible to subsequent PTSD following exposure to traumatic events, whether initial PTSD precedes cognitive decline or whether the effects are reciprocal. Objective: This study examined the bidirectional longitudinal associations between cognitive function and PTSD symptoms and whether this association is mediated by depressive symptoms. Method: The study used data from two waves of the Israeli component of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), collected in 2013 and 2015. This study focused on adults aged 50 years and above (N = 567, mean age = 65.9 years). Each wave used three measures of cognition (recall, fluency, and numeracy) and PTSD symptoms following exposure to war-related events. Data were analyzed using mediation analysis with path analysis. Results: Initial PTSD symptoms predicted cognitive decline in recall and fluency two years later, while baseline cognitive function did not impact subsequent PTSD symptoms. Partial mediation showed that older adults with more PTSD symptoms had higher depressive symptoms, which in turn were linked to subsequent cognitive decline across all three measures. Conclusions: This study reveals that PTSD symptoms are linked with subsequent cognitive decline, supporting approaches addressing this direction. It further indicates that part of this effect can be explained by increased depressive symptoms. Thus, treatment for depressive symptoms may help reduce cognitive decline due to PTSD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-129
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Psychogeriatrics
Volume36
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 11 Feb 2024

Keywords

  • cognition
  • depressive symptoms
  • fluency
  • longitudinal
  • PTSD
  • recall
  • warfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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