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Apathy is an independent risk factor for incident cardiovascular disease in the older individual: a population-based cohort study




Although depression is considered to be associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD), specifically symptoms of apathy have been strongly associated with a history of CVD in recent studies. In this study, we prospectively assess whether symptoms of apathy and depression are independent risk factors for incident CVD and stroke.


We carried out a prospective cohort study of 1810 community-dwelling older individuals (70–78 years) without a history of CVD or stroke. Symptoms of apathy and depression were assessed with the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale. Incident CVD and stroke were assessed after 2 years follow-up. The associations of symptoms of apathy and depression with incident CVD and stroke were analyzed separately using logistic regression analysis.


Symptoms of apathy and depression were present in 281 (15.5%) and 266 (14.7%) participants, respectively. Incident CVD occurred in 62 (3.5%) participants and stroke in 55 (3.1%) participants. Apathy was associated with incident CVD after adjustment for demographics and cardiovascular risk factors (odds ratio (OR) = 2.60, 95% CI = 1.46–4.65). Exclusion of subjects with depressive symptoms yielded a similar OR (2.94, 95% CI = 1.45–5.96, n = 1544). No association was found between depressive symptoms and incident CVD. Neither apathy symptoms nor depressive symptoms were associated with incident stroke.


Apathy, but not depression, is a strong, independent risk factor for incident CVD. It may be a marker of underlying vascular disease. By its nature, apathy may cause non-adherence to a healthy lifestyle, diminished activities, and possibly even withdrawal from clinical care aimed at improving vascular risk profiles. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.