Relationship Between Cannabis Use and Immediate, Delayed, and Working Memory Performance Among Older Adults

TitleRelationship Between Cannabis Use and Immediate, Delayed, and Working Memory Performance Among Older Adults
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsMaynard, MH
Academic DepartmentPsychology
UniversityUniversity of Central Florida
CityOrlando, FL
KeywordsCannabis, Memory

Cannabis is increasingly accessible in the United States for recreational and/or medical
use. Additionally, the Baby Boomer birth cohort exhibits a greater prevalence of cannabis use
than prior generations of older adults. Past research has most frequently addressed the potential
cognitive effects of cannabis use in populations of adolescents and young adults. Some of these
studies suggest that cannabis use is chronically associated with worse performance on tasks of
verbal working memory and executive functioning, however, due to methodological variation
and a wide variety of potential confounds including duration of abstinence and frequency of use,
results are still inconclusive. Through use of a longitudinal, publicly available secondary dataset,
the Health and Retirement Study, immediate, delayed, and working memory were evaluated in
older adults who have used cannabis within the past year, within their lifetime but not the past
year, and those who have never used. Uncontrolled, one-way ANOVAs and controlled
ANCOVAs were used to examine these effects. When controlling for age, gender, education, and
race, current frequent users demonstrated significantly worse immediate memory performance
than past and non-users. Results suggest that greater than weekly cannabis use may result in
attentional and short-term memory deficits. Further, these effects may be mitigated by sustained
abstinence over time. Certain limitations including sample size and measures of cannabis use
warrant future studies to replicate and build upon these findings.

Citation Key11639