Subjective cognitive functioning in relation to changes in levels of depression and anxiety in youth over 3 months of treatment

Kelly Allott, Caroline Gao, Sarah E. Hetrick, Kate M. Filia, Jana M. Menssink, Caroline Fisher, Ian B. Hickie, Helen E. Herrman, Debra J. Rickwood, Alexandra G. Parker, Patrick D. Mcgorry, Sue M. Cotton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background Subjective cognitive difficulties are common in mental illness and have a negative impact on role functioning. Little is understood about subjective cognition and the longitudinal relationship with depression and anxiety symptoms in young people. Aims To examine the relationship between changes in levels of depression and anxiety and changes in subjective cognitive functioning over 3 months in help-seeking youth. Method This was a cohort study of 656 youth aged 12–25 years attending Australian headspace primary mental health services. Subjective changes in cognitive functioning (rated as better, same, worse) reported after 3 months of treatment was assessed using the Neuropsychological Symptom Self-Report. Multivariate multinomial logistic regression analysis was conducted to evaluate the impact of baseline levels of and changes in depression (nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire; PHQ9) and anxiety symptoms (seven-item Generalised Anxiety Disorder scale; GAD7) on changes in subjective cognitive function at follow-up while controlling for covariates. Results With a one-point reduction in PHQ9 at follow-up, there was an estimated 11–18% increase in ratings of better subjective cognitive functioning at follow-up, relative to stable cognitive functioning. A one-point increase in PHQ9 from baseline to follow-up was associated with 7–14% increase in ratings of worse subjective cognitive functioning over 3 months, relative to stable cognitive functioning. A similar attenuated pattern of findings was observed for the GAD7. Conclusions A clear association exists between subjective cognitive functioning outcomes and changes in self-reported severity of affective symptoms in young people over the first 3 months of treatment. Understanding the timing and mechanisms of these associations is needed to tailor treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere84
Number of pages8
JournalBJPsych Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Subjective cognitive functioning
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • youth
  • longitudinal

Cite this