Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology sought to examine the prevalence of subjective memory impairment, which is defined as the subjective awareness of memory problems. Unlike amnestic mild cognitive impairment, which is considered an early form of dementia and confirmed with tests and observations by friends and family, there is no diagnostic criteria for subjective memory impairment.
So to analyze subjective memory impairment, researchers asked 37,405 study participants ages 30 and older nine questions about their memory, such as "Do you have problems with your memory?" and "Do you have problems remembering what happened a few minutes ago?" or "Do you have problems remembering the names of other people?" The participants were also asked about their general health, depression and anxiety symptoms, life satisfaction, and education levels.
Memory problems were extremely prevalent among people in the study, with nearly half of the participants reporting memory problems. Only 1.2 percent of women and 1.6 percent of men said they had severe memory problems.
Men reported more trouble remembering things than women did, though more women than men reported their memory changing with age.
"We have speculated a lot about why men report more frequent problems with remembering than women do, but have not been able to find an explanation. This is still an unsolved mystery," study researcher Jostein Holmen said in a statement.
Names and dates were the most common things people had trouble remembering, with 89.7 percent of men and 86.5 percent of women reporting trouble with names and 74.9 percent of men and 64.7 percent of women reporting trouble with dates. More than half of the participants said that their memory had changed from when they were younger.
Not surprisingly, the older people got, the more memory complaints they had. But still, around 60 percent of people ages 30 to 39 -- the younger study participants -- reported trouble remembering people's names sometimes. And 11.8 percent of women and 18.6 percent of men said they often had trouble remembering people's names.
Memory problems seemed to be associated with depression and anxiety, and there was also an association between higher education and less forgetfulness.