Linking perceived control, physical activity, and biological health to memory change

Frank J. Infurna, Denis Gerstorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Perceived control plays an important role for remaining cognitively fit across adulthood and old age. However, much less is known about the role of perceived control over and above common correlates of cognition, and possible factors that underlie such control- cognition associations. Our study examined whether perceived control was predictive of individual differences in subsequent 4-year changes in episodic memory, and explored the mediating role of physical activity and indicators of physical fitness, cardiovascular, and metabolic health for control-memory associations. To do so, we used longitudinal data from the nationwide Health and Retirement Study (HRS; N = 4,177; ages 30 to 97 years; 59% women). Our results show that perceiving more control over one's life predicted less memory declines, and this protective effect was similar in midlife and old age. We additionally observed that higher levels and maintenance of physical activity over 2 years, better pulmonary function, lower systolic blood pressure (SPB), lower hemoglobin A1c, and higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) also predicted less memory declines. Mediation analyses revealed that levels of, and 2-year changes in, physical activity, as well as levels of pulmonary function and hemoglobin A1c and HDL-C, each uniquely mediated control-memory change associations. Our findings illustrate that perceived control, physical activity, and indicators of physical fitness and cardiovascular and metabolic health moderate changes in memory, and add to the literature on antecedents of cognitive aging by conjointly targeting perceived control and some of its mediating factors. We discuss possible pathways underlying the role of control for memory change and consider future routes of inquiry to further our understanding of control- cognition associations in adulthood and old age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1147-1163
Number of pages17
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Adulthood and old age
  • Behavioral and biological health
  • Cognitive aging
  • Health and retirement study
  • Sense of control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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