The effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors on memory functioning in older adults: A systematic literature review

Julie Em Schulkens, Kay Deckers, Maud Jenniskens, Arjan Blokland, Frans Rj Verhey, Sjacko Sobczak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed to older adults. In contrast to young subjects, it is unclear whether older adults may be vulnerable to cognitive side effects. Serotonin is involved in cognitive functions (e.g. memory). It is of great importance to examine the effects of SSRIs on memory functioning in older adults.

OBJECTIVES: The objective of this systematic literature review is to summarize studies in which the effects of SSRI treatment on all aspects of memory functioning in older adults are investigated.

METHODS: PubMed, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Embase were searched for all studies published until 18th of October 2021. Articles were included if they fulfilled the inclusion criteria as follows: (1) study design is (randomized) controlled trial, cross-sectional, or prospective cohort study; (2) study population consists of older adults (mean age ⩾65 years), or results for this age-group are reported separately; (3) intervention is use of an SSRI; and (4) effects on performance of any memory domain are measured and clearly described.

RESULTS: The search yielded 1888 articles, of which 136 were included for the full-text review. Eventually, 40 articles were included. Most studies reported no association between SSRI use and memory functioning. The studies that found a positive association mainly investigated older adults with mental or neurological disorders (e.g. depression or stroke). A few studies found a negative association in the following subgroups: non-responders (depression), patients with frontal brain disease, and women.

CONCLUSION: Overall, no consistent negative effects of SSRIs on memory functioning in older adults were found after SSRI treatment. Most studies reported no change in memory functioning after SSRI use. Some studies even showed an improvement in memory performance. Positive effects of SSRIs on memory functioning were especially found in older adults with mental or neurological disorders, such as subjects with depression or stroke.

Original languageEnglish
Article number02698811221080462
Pages (from-to)578-593
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Volume36
Issue number5
Early online date29 Apr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Keywords

  • ACUTE TRYPTOPHAN DEPLETION
  • ALZHEIMERS-DISEASE
  • ANTIDEPRESSANT TREATMENT
  • COGNITIVE FUNCTION
  • DOUBLE-BLIND
  • ELDERLY-PATIENTS
  • FLUOXETINE
  • LIFE DEPRESSION RELATIONSHIP
  • MAJOR DEPRESSION
  • SERTRALINE
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
  • aging
  • antidepressants
  • cognition
  • memory
  • older adults
  • pharmacotherapy

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