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Psychopathology. 2014;47(5):319-26. doi: 10.1159/000360823. Epub 2014 Aug 27.

Social adaptive functioning, apathy, and nondysphoric depression among nursing home-dwelling very old adults.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Southern Illinois University Medical School, Springfield, Ill., USA.



Apathetic and subsyndromal depressive conditions are common in the oldest old. This study examined whether nondysphoric depression (NDD), a clinical condition characterized by ideational and vegetative but no emotional symptoms of depression, belongs to the apathetic presentations of late-life depression. Rates of NDD, dysphoric depression (DD), apathy, and social functional impairment were examined in a sample of nondemented very old (mean age 87.5 years, SD = 7.7) nursing home residents. It was hypothesized that individuals with NDD show greater apathy and greater social functional impairment relative to DD and nondepressed individuals.


Social functioning was measured using the Social-Adaptive Functioning Evaluation (SAFE) and apathy was measured using the global apathy rating on the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS).


The rates of DD (50.0%) and NDD (27.4%) were quite high. Participants with DD reported greater apathy than those with NDD (and nondepressed individuals). NDD and DD subjects showed greater social functional impairment relative to the comparison group. There was no difference in social functioning between DD and NDD individuals.


The present data are inconsistent with the view that NDD among the oldest old is an apathetic form of depression. NDD involves social functional impairment. Limitations include rather selected population of nursing home residents that may have included individuals with early dementia, lack of data on prior depressive episodes, and apathy assessment not validated on the specific population.

© 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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