Improving specific autobiographical memory in older adults: impacts on mood, social problem solving, and functional limitations

Fiona Leahy*, Nathan Ridout, Faizah Mushtaq, Carol Holland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Older adults have difficulty recalling specific autobiographical events. This over-general memory style is a vulnerability factor for depression. Two groups receiving interventions that have previously been successful at reducing over-general memory in depressed populations were compared to a control group. Participants were healthy older adults aged ≥70 years: memory specificity training (MEST; n = 22), life review (n = 22), and control group (n = 22). There were significant improvements in autobiographical memory specificity in the MEST and life review groups at post-training, relative to the control group, suggesting that over-general memory can be reduced in older adults. Change in social problem solving ability and functional limitations were related to change in autobiographical memory specificity, supporting the suggested role of specific retrieval in generating solutions to social problems and maintaining independence. Qualitative analysis of participants’ feedback revealed that life review may be more appropriate for older adults, possibly because it involves integrating specific memories into a positive narrative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-723
JournalAging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition
Issue number5
Early online date21 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in anyway.

Funding: Abbeyfield Research Foundation: [Grant Number 4].


  • aging
  • autobiographical memory
  • life review
  • MEST
  • mood


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