A lack of interest to do something due to a host of reasons like boredom or even tiredness may be a part of daily life. However, when apathy is severe, it can become a cause for concern. A recent study showed that older adults who show a lack of interest have a higher risk of developing dementia.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, titled, "Apathy and risk of probable incident dementia among community-dwelling older adults," looked at more than 2,000 older adults over a span of nine years. The age of the participants was between 70 to 79, all of whom at the start of the study had no dementia. Medical records, medications used by patients, as well as their hospitalisations, and cognitive testing were used.
Researchers used a questionnaire to evaluate the apathy levels of participants. Among the questions asked were, in the past four weeks, how often were the participants interested in leaving home and going out, and also, how often were they interested in doing their usual activities.
At the end of nine years, the researchers found that 381 of the elderly developed dementia. In the group who exhibited low apathy, there was 14 percent who developed the illness. In the group, whom researchers classified as showing moderate apathy, 19 percent had dementia. However, the worse number was in the group who showed severe apathy, as 25 percent of them had dementia when the study ended.
The researchers also factored in various control factors such as age, education, blood vessel disease, heart disease, depression, and genetic risks for Alzheimer's. Taking these into consideration, they found that those who have severe apathy had an 80 percent higher risk of developing dementia.
Dr Meredith Bock, lead author and a clinical fellow in neurology at the Institute for Neurosciences at the University of California, said that apathy is not subtle. If doctors would ask about apathy, they might be able to have a better picture of which among their patients is prone to developing the condition. She also noted that more research is needed on apathy and dementia, but the results of the study show a potential red flag symptom of the early phase of the illness.
Dr Rebecca Edelmayer, Alzheimer's Association director of scientific engagement said that the research is critical in order for them to identify who among the patients are at risk.