Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Clinical Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

Mast, Benjamin

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Meeks, Suzanne

Committee Member

Meeks, Suzanne

Committee Member

Salmon, Paul

Committee Member

Stetson, Barbara

Committee Member

LaFaver, Kathrin

Author's Keywords

subjective cognitive decline


Background: Diagnostic labels such as cognitive impairment, dementia or MCI often carry associated stigmatization. Stigma can lead to social isolation and rejection; increasing the likelihood of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Depression and anxiety can be predictive of cognitive function; depression and anxiety are linked to stigma. Subjective cognitive decline (SCD) can be indicative of actual cognitive impairment. Subjective impairment and stigma can significantly predict quality of life. The aim of the proposed dissertation study was to explore whether higher SCD scores associate with more internalized stigma, and if this stigma mediates the relationship between SCD and depression, SCD and anxiety, and SCD and isolation scores. Methods: This sample was open to individuals aged 35-80 and consisted of individuals aged 35-78 years old with stratified age groups. One group consisted of adults aged 35-50 (n=43), one group consisted of adults aged 51-65 (n=118), and another aged 66-80 (n=58). This was a cross-sectional study collecting data from validated and continuously scaled measures. Correlational analyses were used to evaluate associative relationships. Originally, if significant relationships were found, mediation analyses would have been used to look at mechanistic relationships amongst stigma and quality of life. Results: The results showed that SCD was negatively associated with subjective age; however, these results were not statistically significant. The results also showed that SCD was positively correlated with stigma, even when controlled for age, sex, and race. Stigma was significantly and positively correlated with depression and anxiety, even when controlled for age, sex, and race. Stigma was not significantly correlated with loneliness or isolation. Bivariate correlations between depression and the quality of life were insignificant as well as all correlations between anxiety. Stigma and quality of life showed insignificant relationships. Loneliness and isolation relationships with quality of life were highly significant. Discussion: Higher SCD was associated with more stigma and stigma was associated with more depression, anxiety, but not loneliness and isolation. Despite these associations, there was no association with quality of life amongst the variables of interest, other than with loneliness and isolation and attitudes towards aging (AAS). Attitudes towards aging had significant relationships with stigma, quality of life, loneliness and isolation. More research into AAS would better assist in seeing how it affects other psychological variables. Given that stigma can impact health outcomes and can begin during early stages of cognitive change, further understanding into this stigma may aid in preventative measures. In the future, research into primarily older adults and more heavily weighted SCD reporting might offer more insight into how these key variables interact with one another and affect health outcomes.