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Psychiatric symptoms/syndromes in elderly persons with mild cognitive impairment. Data from a cross-sectional study


Y. Forsell, Department of Public Health, Division of Social Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden


Objective – This study examined the prevalence of psychiatric syndromes and symptoms in elderly persons with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Methods – Data from a population-based study (the Kungsholmen Project) were used. All subjects with a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score ≤23 and a comparable random of those ≥24 were selected for further examination. Physicians carefully examined the included persons and those affected with dementia were excluded. The rest were stratified into 14 groups according to age and level of education. The mean MMSE score was calculated for each group and those subjects with scores 1SD below the age- and education-specific mean were classified as MCI. A structured psychiatric interview was performed and diagnoses of depression, anxiety and psychosis were made according to DSM-III-R.

Results – Being suspicious was the only symptom and being affected by an anxiety syndrome was the only diagnosis found to be associated with MCI. The association with suspiciousness might reflect the feeling of losing control that probably accompanies the loss of cognitive function experienced by the person. The association with anxiety syndromes might be a result of the fact that physical disorders have been reported to be more common in persons with cognitive impairment, as well as in persons with anxiety syndromes.

Conclusion – The results of this study suggest that the psychiatric syndromes present in MCI might be related to MCI per se. Additionally, it might reflect a developing dementia or a concomitant physical disorder.