Depression and Apathy Common in People with Alzheimer’s

A new study has found that symptoms of depression and apathy are present in almost 50 percent of people who receive a new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, the French study showed that those same people were more likely to get social assistance and had less independence and a decreased ability to perform daily activities. “Our study highlights the size of the problem of apathy and depression in newly diagnosed patients and shows what a devastating impact this can have,” said Philippe Robert, Centre Memoire de Ressources et de Recherche de Nice. “We already know that these symptoms are the most frequent neuropsychiatric manifestations in Alzheimer’s disease but this is the first time that the frequency has been observed using specific diagnostic criteria. We also know that people with apathy or depression and mild cognitive impairment have an increased risk for developing dementia, thus re-iterating the importance of intervention and helping delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and the common neuropsychiatric conditions associated with it.” He added, “Early management and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease using cognitive and neuropsychiatry signs might allow patients to remain independent for longer.”

People with Alzheimer’s often suffer with depression and apathy and research has shown that people with mild cognitive impairment and apathy are at an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s. In this recent study, the researchers examined 734 patients who had been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They used specific diagnostic tests and markers to determine the frequency of apathy and depressive symptoms. The study revealed that apathy had a frequency of 41.6 percent and depression a frequency of 47.9 percent. Of the 734 patients in the study, over 30 percent had results that indicated the presence of both depression and apathy. Overall, less than ten percent were diagnosed with just apathy, over 15 percent had symptoms of depression alone, and over 40 percent of the test subjects showed no signs of depression or apathy.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • emily


    July 23rd, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    for something like Alzhiemer’s,its not surprising that the patients have’s but natural for them to suffer from depression.but if this depression is controlled there is no is when it spirals out of control that it can result in undesirable things for these patients.

    the very nature of the disease can create depression but hopefully it is controlled.

  • Gina F

    Gina F

    July 24th, 2011 at 5:20 AM

    If you have ever witnessed a loved one have to suffer thru Alzheimers’ then you will know why they would feel depressed and apathetic. There is little treatment that can be offered to halt the progression of this disease, and think about getting that kind of diagnosis when you are in the prime of your life. the quality of life for those with Alzheimers severely decreases as the disease builds and knowing that this is going to happen is enough to send almost anyone into a depressed state. I sincerely hope that treatment is on the horizon because there are far too many people and families having to live with this and suffer while their loved ones waste away.

  • vanessa


    July 24th, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    depression I understand but why do patients feel apathy?is it because they cannot have a complete control or grip over events?because they cannot really comprehend it for so long that they become apathetic?it would be nice to have all this a little elaborated.

  • Bonnie


    July 24th, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    Wouldn’t you feel depressed if you were given this kind of sentence? I mean, come on. Knowing that your brain is going to deteriorate and that you won’t be able to do anything for yourself anymore in a matter of time can not be a fun thing to hear. Think that I would be kind of bummed out too.

  • Chris


    July 24th, 2011 at 8:07 PM

    Apathy is also the feeling that I am struggling to understand the most. Anger as to why this could happen to a person sure, but apathy?

    Depression on the other hand is fully understandable as the treatments are limited and none to date have shown prevention or a cure. At most you can hope for a delayed onset and squeaking out just a few more good hours/days/years.

  • Mick Graham

    Mick Graham

    July 26th, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Isn’t apathy a predictable response to being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? I would have thought so. Or perhaps the response they are attributing to apathy is more akin to resignation at their plight combined with a lack of true understanding that they have Alzheimer’s. It’s such a cruel disease.

  • r. miller

    r. miller

    July 26th, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    Excuse my ignorance here but what exactly does apathy mean? Isn’t that a general suffix for any kind of mental disorder that’s to do being lacking in the emotional department?

  • Donna A.

    Donna A.

    July 26th, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    @r.miller-Apathy means basically being completely uninterested in any specific situation, item or outcome. It’s not always indicative of a mental disorder. You’re likely apathetic about the cracks in the streets of San Diego if you live in Illinois for example.

    “Could care less” is another apt description.

  • Brandy Parrish

    Brandy Parrish

    July 26th, 2011 at 8:57 PM

    Isn’t something causing apathy AND depression a bit of a contradiction? Depression by itself is rooted in emotion imho and apathy centers around being emotionless about something, so why would Alzheimer’s cause two such very different conditions that butt heads with each other like that?

  • Eunice Gray

    Eunice Gray

    July 26th, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    My worry is will I be able to cope once Benny dies if he’e got Alzheimers and doesn’t know who I am in his final days. Benny is my husband and even though he is at the ripe old age of 76 this year, he still works for us and he works very hard.

    He jokes about death, always saying things like how he wants to die first so he can warn everybody in Heaven about his wife who isn’t far behind. To him it’s no big deal. He’s only five years older than me and likes to call himself a cradle snatcher. :)I would hate to think of him losing to this horrible disease and him seeing me as a stranger. Bless all those caregivers and sufferers that deal with this every day.

  • Cherie Gracefoot

    Cherie Gracefoot

    July 29th, 2011 at 8:13 PM

    @Brandy: I can see how they could co-exist in one person. Apathy isn’t just a lack of emotion-it’s also a lack of motivation which is a major symptom of depression. Apathy can be very easily likened to depression on its own and vice-versa, since depressed people tend to stop caring about everything around them.

  • tanya milligan

    tanya milligan

    July 29th, 2011 at 9:41 PM

    Considering what Alzheimer’s does to the brain, I’m genuinely not surprised. If you google Alzheimer’s brain vs normal brain, you’ll see a picture of a healthy brain’s scan and one with Alzheimer’s. You don’t have to be a doctor to realize from that image how destructive that is.

  • nigelnixon


    July 30th, 2011 at 1:55 AM

    @tanya–I saw that picture as well after I Googled it because you piqued my curiosity. It really shocked me. It was then I realized the scope and damage of Alzheimer’s and how it affects all portions of the brain, not just a few bits of it. It’s astounding that seniors continue to function at all with such significant damage.

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