In a new study, researchers found that people who lack interest in the world around them are at an increased risk of developing dementia.
The research was conducted by a team at Alzheimer’s Research UK.
In the study, the team looked to see whether developing dementia was linked to apathy.
People with apathy often have a lack of interest in the world around them, with signs of apathy including stop taking part in normal activities, showing little emotion, and a lack of energy.
The researchers used a questionnaire designed to evaluate apathy in over 2,000 people and to discriminate apathy from depression and anxiety.
They divided the volunteers into groups corresponding to low, moderate, or severe apathy.
The team determined whether people developed dementia with an algorithm based on information on dementia medication use, hospital records, or a significant decline in memory and thinking.
The team followed participants over nine years and found 381 volunteers developed likely dementia.
They found that severe apathy was linked with an increased risk of dementia compared to low apathy.
Apathy was also linked to worse memory and thinking at the beginning of the study, but not the rate of change over time.
The team says symptoms of apathy are common in dementia and are not necessarily symptoms of depression.
Many people with dementia are mistakenly diagnosed as having depression, particularly in the early stages.
Building a better understanding of some of the less well-recognized symptoms of dementia, like apathy, could inform our efforts to develop better treatments for the condition.
One author of the study is Dr. Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK.
The study is published in the journal Neurology.
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