The same may be true of women approaching menopause, many of whom live a life filled with stress and worry. Indeed, Weber and Mapstone found that most of the women in their study had some sort of mood distress, including symptoms of depression or anxiety.
"When people spread their attention thin, it's difficult to encode new information. When they're worried or anxious about being late for work, or the problems of an aging parent that sort of stress can rob your attentional resources and impact your ability to encode information properly," said Mapstone, who said similar difficulty taking in new information is typical of nearly any man or woman who is anxious or depressed.
Weber said the study points out the importance for women who are feeling anxious or depressed to seek treatment, a step that should ease any cognitive difficulties.
"What characterizes these women is that they're being pulled in a lot of different directions. Many work they have careers, aging parents, children. Then they're going through this dramatic hormonal change," Weber said.
"This will resonate for most women," said Weber. "There really is something going on. And perhaps knowing that their perceived problems with memory do not suggest early dementia might alleviate their concerns and actually improve their functioning it's one less thing to worry about."