What Are the Causes of Short Term Memory Loss in a 40-Year-Old?

Updated April 17, 2017

Short-term memory loss, a frustrating condition that strikes at age 40 as easily as it does decades later, is caused by different issues. It's defined as memory that has been accumulated in the preceding few minutes. Memory problems are caused by drug or alcohol abuse, thyroid disease, head injuries, surgery recovery, depression or even early onset of conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

Drug and Alcohol Use

Prolonged alcohol and drug use, including marijuana and ecstasy, sometimes leads to negative changes in brain function. Among those changes is short-term memory loss. Withdrawal symptoms experienced by people quitting drugs and alcohol also lead to short-term memory loss. Those memory challenges aren't always lasting, however, with memory and cognitive function improving over time.

Thyroid Disease

Fatigue, heightened sensitivity to cold, difficulty concentrating and short-term memory loss are all symptoms of hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid. The disease is characterised by the thyroid gland's failure to produce key hormones necessary for a healthy metabolism. Thyroid disease is managed with a healthy lifestyle and medication to help regain and balance thyroid hormone in the body. Once thyroid disease is managed, many symptoms such as short-term memory loss disappear. Hypothyroidism commonly appears in the 30s or 40s and is more common in women than in men.

Head Injury

A 40-year-old who suffers a head injury, whether from a motorcycle accident, a sports injury or other cause, often experiences headaches, short-term memory loss and other cognitive dysfunction. Even a minor blow to the head sometimes leads to similar problems, known as post-concussion syndrome. Memory problems and other signs usually disappear within several days or weeks.


Depression is often associated with short-term and long-term memory loss because the mental disorder involves dysfunction in a part of the brain that is also involved with memory. Getting treatment for depression, whether through therapy, medications or a combination of both, helps restore cognitive function. Memory challenges sometimes still occur even after other symptoms have responded to treatment.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

James Roland started writing professionally in 1987. A former reporter and editor with the "Sarasota Herald-Tribune," he currently oversees such publications as the "Cleveland Clinic Heart Advisor" and UCLA's "Healthy Years." Roland earned his Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Oregon.