Posted: November 27th, 2013








            The article “The Association of Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms with Cognitive Performance in Community-Dwelling Older Adults” by Sherry A. Beaudereau and Ruth O’Hara seeks to find out whether anxiety and depression had any effect on the cognitive processes in older adults. The cognitive processes studied include inhibitory control, word fluency, episodic memory, processing speed and shifting attention, and semantic memory. The study involved 102 older adult participants. All the participants were healthy, and they did not suffer serious health complications such as cancer and pulmonary diseases. They were all above sixty years, with a median age of seventy-one years. Majority of the participants were Caucasian although there were few participants from other ethnic backgrounds. The participants completed two questionnaires. The first questionnaire focused on mood and anxiety and the second questionnaire comprised of neuropsychological tests. The researchers tested three hypotheses in the study.

The researchers observed the depressive symptoms of the participants using a Genatric Depression Scale-Long. They measured factors such as sadness, behavioral agitation, hopelessness, social withdrawal and lack of vitality. They used a Beck Anxiety Inventory, which identifies twenty-one anxiety symptoms. They used various tests to measure the cognitive processes. These tests included the Stroop Color and Word Test, which measured inhibitory control; the Symbol Digital Modality Test, which measured processing speed/shifting attention; the Controlled Oral Word Association Test, which measured word fluency; the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, which measured episodic memory, and the second version of the Boston Naming Test, which measured semantic memory. The researchers used the raw cognitive test score as the dependent variable. The independent variables used were the effects and interaction of the depressive and anxiety symptoms measured by the Genatric Depression Scale and the Beck Anxiety Inventory.

According to the results, the older adults who had a lot of anxiety also reported more symptoms of depression. 83.3% of the participants reported that they were bothered with at least one anxiety symptom. The participants with increased anxiety performed poorly in processing speed and shifting attention, and inhibition. Few of the participants who showed more depressive symptoms had a poor episodic memory. The participants who showed anxiety symptoms also had poor inhibitory performance. Semantic memory, episodic memory and processing speed/shifting attention, were associated with the participants who showed both symptoms of anxiety and depression. Of the tests conducted, word fluency was not strongly associated with any of the cognitive processes. This is probably because the participants in the study were highly educated. The study suggested that some older adults with anxiety symptoms might not have problems in the cognition processes identified in the study. The researchers noted that there is a relationship between late-life anxiety and inhibition. They noted that people with high levels of anxiety are more likely to have enhanced inhibitory abilities, while, on the other hand, people with mild symptoms of anxiety are more likely to have impaired inhibitory ability.

The research conducted is a crucial area of psychology. It is necessary to understand how healthy older adults are affected when they have anxiety and depression. Most research concerning older adults is usually concerned with those with serious mental conditions. The common perception among many people is that many older adults with depression and anxiety symptoms usually suffer from depression, and this affects their cognitive processes. One of the most important findings in the study involves anxiety and inhibition. The research indicates that reducing anxiety will lead to a higher performance in inhibition. Some researchers have noted the importance of improving inhibition among the older adults. This is because poor inhibition abilities affect the social lives and the cognition abilities of the older adults. It often leads the older adults to act in an inappropriate manner. This happens in the manner of conversation, whereby older adults with poor inhibition are more likely to talk more than they should, and are more likely to talk about inappropriate topics. Inhibitory abilities in lower adults might lead to depression. This happens when they feel that they do not have the ability to control themselves in front of people. They will end up isolating themselves and avoiding any social contacts, so that they can avoid any instance of embarrassment. They will sometimes blame themselves for their inabilities. They will worry and have constant thoughts and this will in turn lead to depression. Chances are that inhibition among the older adults will improve once anxiety and depression are reduced and managed.

The results could be used to improve the human condition because they show that some cognitive processes are associated with anxiety and not necessarily depression. Many people who suffer from anxiety have suffered from some of the cognitive problems such as lack of attention, but this has often been attributed to depression. Some of the treatment methods used for depression are not appropriate for anxiety, yet doctors have sometimes used them. This research indicates the importance of knowing the real cause of the problem. It is necessary to apply the right method of treatment when dealing with anxiety and depression. Some of the methods used for anxiety may not be the right methods for treating depression. In some cases, people who have anxiety are not usually depressed. An anxious person will often have feelings of fear, and he or she will be tensed and rigid. On the other hand, people with depression may sometimes have suicidal thoughts. They often feel sad and miserable, and they lack hope. When treating anxiety disorders, it is essential to have knowledge of the full extent of the condition so that all underlying conditions can be treated. Some of the physical symptoms of children and adults with anxiety problems are not experienced by people who have depression. For instance, people with anxiety problems will sometimes feel dizzy and have shortness of breath. This is not common for people with depression. However, it is important to note that anxiety causes depression, and a person who has both conditions will usually have these symptoms. Some of the causes of both symptoms are also different. For instance, the loss of a loved one will sometimes lead to depression, although the person might not be anxious.

This research is not only crucial for older adults, but it is also essential for people of other age groups. A high inhibitory control is directly related to high social competence in children. Children who have high inhibitory control often feel more confident about their abilities. In addition, children who have stronger self-regulation are able to avoid stressful situations and depressive conditions by delaying maladaptive responses and using active strategies to cope. Having an impaired inhibitory control often leads to self-control disorders. Knowing how to manage and control impaired inhibitory control will reduce the chances of a person having such conditions.

It is important for people to understand depression. This will help them in knowing the correct treatment to use, and other conditions that are associated with the condition. As the research has indicated, some of the cognitive problems such as inhibitory control are largely caused by anxiety and not depression. Most people hold the opinion that these conditions are caused by depression. Many anxiety problems can be managed easily. Depression, on the other hand, requires treatment. People overmedicate themselves when they treat anxiety problems as depression. Problems of inhibitory control, shifting attention, processing speed and episodic and semantic memory can be reduced by reducing anxiety.


Beaudreau, S. A., & O’Hara, R. (2009). The association of anxiety and depressive symptoms with cognitive performance in community-dwelling older adults. Psychology and Aging, 24 (2), 507-512

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