There is usually a weak relation between memory complaints and laboratory memory performance, but few studies have investigated what people perceive as causes of their everyday memory problems. This study investigated prevalence, severity and perceived causes of memory problems in a population-based sample (N = 361, age-range 39–99). 30.2 per cent of the participants reported memory complaints (at least moderate memory problems). Higher age was associated with more severe memory problems, but the age-related differences were small. The most frequent perceived causes were age/ageing, stress and multitasking. Age/ageing as a cause was more frequent among older participants, and stress and multitasking were more frequent among middle-aged participants. The results suggest that everyday stress and level of engagement in multiple tasks or commitments, that place demands on cognitive resources, are important variables to consider when studying the relations between subjective everyday memory measures, age and memory performance in the laboratory.