Correlates and moderators of change in subjective memory and memory performance: Findings from the health and retirement study

Gizem Hülür, Christopher Hertzog, Ann M. Pearman, Denis Gerstorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Aging researchers have long been interested in understanding individuals' subjective perceptions of their own memory functioning. Previous research has shown that subjective memory ratings are partly based on memory performance but also reflect the influence of other factors, such as depressive symptoms. The aim of the present study was to examine (1) longitudinal associations between trajectories of subjective memory and memory performance, (2) variables that predict levels of and changes in subjective memory and memory performance, and (3) variables that moderate associations between these constructs. We applied a latent growth curve model to four occasions of data from 15,824 participants of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS; mean age at baseline = 64.27 years, SD = 9.90; 58% women). Results revealed that latent changes in subjective memory were correlated with latent changes in memory performance (φ = 0.49), indicating that participants who reported steeper declines of subjective memory indeed showed steeper declines of memory performance over time. Three major patterns of associations emerged with respect to predictors of subjective memory and subjective memory change. First, the level of memory performance showed stronger associations with age, gender, and education, whereas subjective memory was more strongly associated with subjective age and personality traits. For example, women performed better than men on the episodic memory test, but there were no gender differences in subjective memory. Also, older age was associated with steeper declines of memory performance but with less decline of subjective memory. Second, personality traits that predicted subjective memory intercepts did not predict subjective memory slopes. Third, the strength of associations between levels and slopes of subjective memory and memory performance varied as a function of gender, education, depressive symptoms, and personality traits. Conscientiousness moderated the relationship of the level of subjective memory to the level of memory performance, consistent with the hypothesis that persons high in conscientiousness more accurately monitor memory successes and failures. The results reinforce the importance of depressive symptoms as a predictor of subjective memory but also indicate that a broader perspective on the reasons why memory complaints have modest correlations with memory itself is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-240
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 6 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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