International Psychogeriatrics

Research Article

Do people become more apathetic as they grow older? A longitudinal study in healthy individuals

Henry Brodatya1a2a3 c1, Annette Altendorfa1a3, Adrienne Withalla1a2a3 and Perminder Sachdeva1a2a4

a1 School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

a2 Primary Dementia Collaborative Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

a3 Academic Department for Old Age Psychiatry, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, NSW, Australia

a4 Neuropsychiatric Institute, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, NSW, Australia


Background: The aim of this study was to determine levels, rates and progression of apathy in healthy older persons and to investigate factors associated with its progression.

Methods: Seventy-six healthy elderly subjects, aged 58–85 years (mean 69.9), who were recruited by general advertisement and through local community groups, participated as a control group for a longitudinal study of stroke patients. Data were collected on demographic, psychological, neuropsychological and neuroimaging (MRI) variables and apathy was rated by informants on the Apathy Evaluation Scale (AES).

Results: Apathy scores and rates increased over 5 years, especially in men. Change of apathy was associated with informant ratings of cognitive decline in the years prior to baseline assessment but not to subsequent neuropsychological, neuroimaging or functional changes.

Conclusions: Apathy increases with age in otherwise healthy community-dwelling individuals, particularly in men.

(Received May 21 2009)

(Revised August 11 2009)

(Revised October 01 2009)

(Accepted October 02 2009)

(Online publication December 15 2009)