Mogle J, Turner JR, Bhargava S, Stawski RS, Almeida DM, Hill NL. Individual differences in frequency and impact of daily memory lapses: results from a national lifespan sample. BMC geriatr. 2023 Oct 17;23(1):670. doi: 10.1186/s12877-023-04363-6

BACKGROUND: Everyday memory problems are believed to increase with age, leading many researchers to focus on older ages when examining reports of memory lapses. However, real world memory lapses are ubiquitous across the adult lifespan, though less is known about the types of problems and their impacts at younger ages. The current study examined occurrence and impacts of memory lapses using daily diaries in a broad age range and whether characteristics of lapses varied across age, gender, or education level.

METHODS: Using an 8-day daily diary protocol, 2,018 individuals (ages 25-91) provided reports of their experiences of two types of daily memory lapses (retrospective and prospective) as well as the impact those lapses had on their emotional and functional well-being that day. Using multilevel modeling, we examined the likelihood of reporting memory lapses and their impacts on daily life and whether these depended on age, gender, or education level.

RESULTS: Participants reported lapses on approximately 40% of days; retrospective memory lapses were significantly more likely than prospective lapses. Older ages and higher education level were related to greater likelihood of reporting retrospective lapses. Women (compared to men) were more likely to report prospective memory lapses. Women also tended to report greater impacts of their memory lapses. Lower education levels were related to greater impacts of memory lapses compared to higher education levels. Interestingly, age was not related to impacts of lapses.

DISCUSSION: Our results indicate that memory lapses are common across the lifespan and that those individuals more likely to report lapses are not necessarily those that experience the greatest impacts of those lapses on daily life. Additional work is needed to understand the daily experience of memory lapses and how they differentially affect individuals regardless of age, gender, and education.

CONCLUSIONS: Memory lapses are an important aspect of daily life across the lifespan and require measurement in an individual's real-world environments. Better measurement of these experiences will allow the development of more sensitive measures of changes in cognitive functioning that may impact an individual's ability to live independently.

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