Beyond memory problems: multiple obstacles to health and quality of life in older people seeking help for subjective memory complaints

Shlomit Rotenberg Shpigelman, Shelley Sternberg, Adina Maeir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Preliminary evidence suggests that older people who seek medical help for subjective memory complaints (SMC) may be at risk for depression, poor quality of life (QoL), and functional limitations. This study aims to: (1) further investigate bio-psycho-social characteristics, participation in personally meaningful activities and QoL of help-seekers; and (2) examine the relationship of these characteristics to QoL, and explore the unique contribution of participation to QoL. Methods: Cognitive, meta-cognitive, emotional, social, participation, and QoL measures were used to compare 51 help-seekers referred from geriatric clinics to 40 age-matched controls who did not seek help for memory problems. Results: Help-seekers exhibited lower participation and QoL, had lower mean cognitive scores, reported more memory mistakes and negative memory-beliefs, more depression, worse self-efficacy, and less positive social interaction than non-help-seekers. Quality of life in help-seekers was significantly correlated with most variables. Participation contributed to the explained variance of QoL in help-seekers, beyond that accounted for by cognition and emotional status. Discussion: Help-seekers with SMC exhibited a complex health condition that includes not only SMC, but also objective memory impairment, depression, functional restrictions, negative memory beliefs, low perception of memory abilities, reduced self-efficacy and insufficient social interactions, all associated with lower QoL. This multi-faceted condition should be considered in the treatment of help-seekers.Implications for Rehabilitation Older people who seek help for subjective memory complaints may be facing a larger problem involving bio-psycho-social factors, affecting participation in meaningful activities and quality of life. Quality of life may be improved via treatment of depression, functional restrictions, memory beliefs, self-efficacy, and positive social interactions. Participation in meaningful activities is an especially important target for improving health and quality of life in this population. Interventions for older adults seeking help for subjective memory complaints will benefit from adopting a bio-psycho-social rehabilitation perspective.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)19-25
Number of pages7
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2019


  • Memory help seeking
  • older-adults
  • participation
  • quality of life
  • subjective memory complaints

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Rehabilitation


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