Evaluation of Apathy in Multiple Sclerosis


Features of apathy include lack of initiation, lack of interest, reduced spontaneity, indifference, and reduced self-awareness. While apathy is frequently examined within the context of depression, the two have actually found to be distinct symptoms in many neurological populations. The understanding of apathy is important, as the treatment of patients with apathy can be difficult because they fail to comply with appointments, take medications, follow instructions, exert effort in their treatment, lack concern for their health, and have diminished socialization. The Apathy Evaluation Scale (AES) provides a comprehensive evaluation of apathy including components of affective, behavioral and cognitive apathy and has been utilized in other clinical populations.
To examine the presence of apathy in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) utilizing the AES.
Forty-one individual with relapsing-remitting MS completed the self-reported version of the AES (AES-S) while their significant others completed the informant version of the AES (AES-I).
Individuals with MS had an average age of=48.65 (SD= 8.19), 15.98 years of education (SD=2.00) and averaged 176.5 month since diagnosis (SD= 105.05). Thirty-nine percent of individuals with MS scored greater than 1.5 SD above the mean. AES-S scores for the individuals with MS correlated with scores on the Empathy Scale (r=-.49, p=.001), Empathy Quotient (r=-.42, p=.006), Community Integration Questionnaire (r=-.53, p=.000), Satisfaction with Life Scale (r=-.45, p=.003), and Friendship Qualities Scale (r=-.45, p=.004), but not the ENRICH Marital Satisfaction Scale. The significant other rated AES-I correlated with significant other ratings on Empathy Quotient (r=-.39, p=.022), Friendship Qualities Scale (r=-.39, p=.025), Satisfaction with Life Scale (r=-.44, p=.010), and ENRICH Marital Satisfaction Scale (r=-.44, p=.010), but not the Empathy Scale or Community Integration Questionnaire.
A subset of individuals with MS displayed significant symptoms of apathy utilizing the AES. These findings are consistent with other work examining apathy in MS using other methods. Additionally, the presence of apathy may contribute to relationship issues and overall satisfaction and integration. The presence of apathy may impact empathy as well.