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OBJECTIVES: Previous studies have suggested sex differences in mood and cognition and that estrogen effects may partially explain such differences. In this study, we explore sex differences for a range of mood symptoms and for neuropsychological performance in men and postmenopausal women and assess the potential influence of estrogen on these measures.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study of men and women examining mood, neuropsychological test data, and estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) use.

SETTING: Outpatient study at an urban teaching hospital with subjects recruited from the community.

PARTICIPANTS: All subjects (N = 96) were between the ages of 57 and 75 and included 31 women using ERT, 16 non-ERT users, and 49 men. Subjects did not have major depression and were nondemented.

MEASUREMENT: The three groups were compared according to profile of mood states and neuropsychological performance, and statistical analyses were controlled for socioeconomic status, age, and education level.

RESULTS: Female ERT users were less depressed and less angry and performed better on measures of verbal fluency and working memory than the other subject groups.

CONCLUSION: Postmenopausal estrogen use is associated with better mood and cognitive performance on tasks of fluency and working memory. These results suggest that estrogen should be examined as a potentially critical variable influencing late-life sex differences in mood and cognition.

(C) 2002 by the American Geriatrics Society