Change in perceived stress and 2‐year change in cognitive function among older adults: The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing

Prolonged or severe stress can adversely affect older adults' cognitive function, but population‐based studies investigating this relationship over time are rare. Previous studies have largely focused on stress either evaluated at a single time point or linked to specific life events. This study aimed to investigate whether a change in perceived stress over 2 years predicts a change in cognitive performance over the same time period in a population‐based sample of older adults. Data from the first 2 waves of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing were analyzed. Five thousand and seventy adults aged 50 and older completed the 4‐item Perceived Stress Scale and measures of verbal fluency, immediate and delayed word recall 2 years apart. A first differences regression model revealed that the change in stress over 2 years was inversely associated with a change in immediate word recall performance, even after adjustment for change in possible confounders (B = −0.030, 95% CI [−.056, −.004], p < .05). No association was observed for delayed recall or verbal fluency performance. Change in perceived stress is inversely correlated with change in immediate recall, even over a short period. Stress modifying interventions could potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline associated with ageing.