Overgeneral autobiographical memory and depression in older adults: a systematic review

Flora Wilson, James Gregory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Objectives: Overgeneral autobiographical memory (OGM) is a well-researched phenomenon in working age adults with depression. However, the relevance and importance of OGM in older adult depression is not well established. The aim of this review was to synthesise existing literature on OGM and depressive symptoms in older adults under the framework of the Capture and Rumination, Functional Avoidance and Impaired Executive Control (CaR-FA-X) model.

Method: Literature searches were conducted using PsychINFO, PubMed and Web of Knowledge. Eighteen articles were reviewed.

Results: OGM is elevated in healthy older adults compared to adults of working age, and further elevated in older adults with depression. Evidence supports the role of impaired executive function as a mechanism for OGM in older adults with depression, but no studies measured other components of the CaR-FA-X model (i.e. functional avoidance and rumination).

Conclusion: OGM is prevalent in older adults and more so for those with depression; however, there is no clear understanding of the underpinning mechanisms. It is recommended that future research looks at the role of functional avoidance and rumination, and at the use of memory specificity interventions being developed in the working age adult literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-586
Number of pages13
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number5
Early online date25 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Older adults
  • autobiographical memory
  • depression
  • overgeneral memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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