Working memory and attention are still impaired after three years in patients with stress-related exhaustion


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Publication Details

Author list: Ljung, Thomas

Publication year: 2017

Start page: 504

End page: 509

Number of pages: 6

ISSN: 0036-5564

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/sjop.12394

View additional information: View in Web of Science


Cognitive impairment is one of the most pronounced symptoms reported by patients with stress-related mental health problems. Impairments related to executive function and to some extent speed and attention are therefore common in patients with stress-related burnout/exhaustion. In this paper we present a follow-up of cognitive performance in patients with stress-related exhaustion several years after they initially sought medical care. Thirty patients and 27 healthy controls, mean age 49 years (SD 6.5) and 55 years (SD 6.7) respectively, were included, all of whom had undergone baseline measurements of neuropsychological functioning. The mean follow-up time was three years. Half of the patients still reported mental health problems at follow-up and over time no major changes in cognitive performance were noted. The patients still performed significantly poorer than controls with regard to cognitive functions, mainly related to speed, attention and memory function. Long-lasting impairment of cognitive functions related to speed, attention and memory function noted in patients with stress-related exhaustion should be acknowledged and taken into consideration during treatment and when discussing a return to work. Follow-up periods longer than three years are needed to explore the persistence of the cognitive impairment.


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