Anxious, but not depressive, symptoms, introduce test bias into the measurement of memory in older adults, according to a recent study. This indicates that memory models for research and clinical purposes should account for the direct relationship between anxiety symptoms and memory tests in addition to the true relationship between anxiety symptoms and memory construct. Researchers conducted a secondary analysis of the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly dataset, a randomized controlled trial of community-dwelling older adults (n=2,802). They found:
• The differential item function (DIF) was present for anxiety symptoms but not for depressive symptoms, such that higher anxiety placed older adults at a disadvantage on measures of memory performance.
• Analysis of DIF impact showed that compared with participants scoring in the bottom quartile of anxious symptoms, participants in the upper quartile exhibited memory performance scores that were 0.26 standard deviation lower.
Citation: Williams MW, Kueider AM, Dmitrieva NO, Manly JJ, et al. Anxiety symptoms bias memory assessment in older adults. [Published online ahead of print August 9, 2016]. Int J Geriatr Psych. doi:10.1002/gps.4557.