Context Apathy in community-dwelling elderly individuals has been associated with a history of stroke and other cardiovascular disease.
Objective To assess the relationship between symptoms of apathy and cardiovascular risk factors or disease (stroke or other) in a large sample of elderly people aged 70 to 78 years without depression or dementia.
Design Cross-sectional data analysis within an ongoing cluster-randomized, open, multicenter trial.
Setting The Netherlands, general community.
Participants We studied 3534 elderly individuals without dementia who were included in the Prevention of Dementia by Intensive Vascular Care trial.
Main Outcome Measures Symptoms of apathy, assessed with 3 items from the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale, in participants with few or no depressive symptoms.
Results The median age of participants was 74.3 years. Principal components analysis of the Geriatric Depression Scale confirmed a separate factor for the apathy items (Geriatric Depression Scale–3A). Two or more symptoms of apathy were present in 699 participants (19.9%), of whom 372 (53.2%) were without depressive symptoms (Geriatric Depression Scale–12D score <2). Ordinal regression analysis showed that increasing apathy in the absence of depressive symptoms was associated with a history of stroke (odds ratio, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.38-2.31) and cardiovascular disease other than stroke (1.28; 1.09-1.52). Exploratory analysis among 1889 participants free from stroke and other cardiovascular disease revealed an association between apathy score and the following cardiovascular risk factors: systolic blood pressure (P = .03), body mass index (P = .002), type 2 diabetes mellitus (P = .07), and C-reactive protein (P < .001).
Conclusions Symptoms indicative of apathy are common in community-dwelling nondemented older people who are free from depression. The independent association of stroke, other cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular risk factors with symptoms of apathy suggests a causal role of vascular factors.
Trial Registration isrctn.org Identifier: ISRCTN29711771