Watch out for apathy - it may be a warning sign for dementia

Memory clinic patients who have lost interest are about twice as likely to develop incident dementia

Apathy could predict increased risk of dementia, say Dutch and UK researchers who note memory clinic patients who have lost interest are about twice as likely to develop dementia as those that haven't.

Their review of 16 studies found a link between apathy and incident dementia among 7365 patients with mild cognitive impairment or subjective cognitive concerns. 

The association was consistent across different countries and settings, the systemic review and meta-analysis found.

“Apathy deserves more attention as a relevant, cheap, noninvasive, and easily measureable marker of increased risk of incident dementia with high clinical relevance, particularly because these vulnerable patients may forgo health care,” the researchers wrote in JAMA Psychiatry.

The median age of participants in the studies was almost 72 years and 53% were women.

Apathy was measured at baseline