What Can Affect Memory?

Regularly forgetting things and experiencing confusion can be a result of many things.

1. Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Many people experience stress at work and in their personal lives. Studies have shown that people under pressure who have high levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in their blood, perform less well in memory tests.

It is now also thought that even severe, short term stress can cause memory loss.

Unaddressed, chronic stress can develop into anxiety or depression which can also interfere with memory and make it difficult for people to do things they normally would.

2. Medication 

Side effects of over-the-counter and prescription medication may contribute to memory problems in the person taking the medication.

3. Problems Sleeping 

Lack of sleep and poor quality sleep are both associated with memory loss. Adults generally need at least 6 hours of sleep a night to function the next day. Sleep is needed for effective memory storage and retrieval.

4. Alcohol and Drugs

Alcoholics, long term heavy drinkers and drug users can suffer from memory loss. Recent studies also suggest that binge drinking can cause short term memory loss.

5. Poor Diet 

An unbalanced diet can affect memory. If a person has low levels of certain B vitamins, they may experience confusion and problems with memory.

6. Infections 

Various types of infections can cause memory loss and confusion.

7. Thyroid Issues 

An underactive thyroid can cause memory problems, loss of sleep and even depression.

8. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) 

MCI is a mild form of memory loss. It is a general term used to describe a slight but measurable memory disorder that can affect short term memory: a person may have trouble remembering to attend appointments or take medication on time.

A person with MCI can have memory problems greater than normally expected for their age and does not show the other symptoms, such as impaired judgment or reasoning. A person with MCI may develop dementia later on but many people with MCI do not develop dementia.

9. Dementia

Dementia is a term used to describe a number of physical diseases of the brain. Common symptoms of dementia include:

  • memory loss
  • confusion
  • mood change
  • disorientation
  • problems with communication
  • difficulty with problem solving and concentrating.

Memory loss is the most common symptom of dementia but dementia is more than memory loss. Dementia can affect the way people think, speak, perceive things, feel and behave, making it harder to communicate and do everyday things.

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing.

Dementia is caused by diseases within the brain and Alzheimer’s disease is the common type of dementia.

Dementia affects daily activities, relationships, moods and behaviour. It is currently progressive and irreversible. Every year, new understanding about dementia helps more people live well with dementia, boost people’s confidence and maintain their independence for as long as possible.

Many people with dementia continue to drive, socialise and work. Even as dementia progresses, many people lead active, healthy lives, continue their hobbies, and enjoy friendships and relationships.

Dementia does make it harder to do certain things. However, with early diagnosis, the right knowledge and support, people can still live well with dementia.


If you have concerns about your memory, please speak to GP about your concerns. If you are concerned about the memory of someone you know, encourage them to visit their GP.

More articles about memory problems.