Which Variables Moderate the Relationship between Depressive Symptoms and Neurocognition Across Adulthood?

Jordan Paul Sergio, Fordham University


The current study examined moderators of the relationship between depressive symptoms and neurocognition in a large non-clinical community-dwelling sample spanning adulthood. Participants comprised 5,430 individuals between the ages of 18-99 years drawn from the Virginia Cognitive Aging Project. Depressive symptoms were measured via the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression scale and neurocognition was operationalized as a composite variable comprising episodic memory, spatial visualization, processing speed, and reasoning tasks. Moderator variables included physical activity, cognitive activity, education, emotional stability, and openness. Hierarchical regressions were used to examine the influence of depressive symptoms and the moderators on neurocognition. Depressive symptoms significantly predicted neurocognition. Cognitive activity, years of education, and emotional stability moderated the depression-neurocognition relationship by buffering the impact of depressive symptoms on neurocognition. Cognitive activity engagement and level of education may function as a protective influence on those with higher levels of depressive symptoms, while emotional stability may be protective for individuals with lower levels of depressive symptoms. No differences in moderation were found across three age groups representing younger, middle, and older adults. Post-hoc analyses showed years of education and openness as moderators in a subsample excluding individuals with potentially clinically meaningful levels of depressive symptoms.

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Recommended Citation

Sergio, Jordan Paul, "Which Variables Moderate the Relationship between Depressive Symptoms and Neurocognition Across Adulthood?" (2022). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI29325884.