As the HIV population ages and HAART extends the life span of older HIV+ individuals, it is important to address the neuropsychological, cognitive, and emotional manifestations of HIV in this sub-population. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether apathy and depressive symptoms were associated with executive functioning in older HIV+ individuals. This archival study explored whether four items from the Beck Depression Inventory, Second Edition (BDI-II) could serve as an index of apathy and whether higher scores on these items would be related to greater impairment on measures of executive functioning. The sample consisted of 95 older HIV+ persons who completed neurocognitive tests of executive functioning as well as the BDI-II as part of larger study examining the relationship between HIV and aging. The measures of executive functioning were: the Stroop Color Word Interference Test; the Trail Making Test, Part B; the Controlled Word Association Test; and the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test-64. Four items from the BDI-II - reflecting loss of pleasure, loss of interest, loss of interest in sex, and difficulty making decisions - were selected on the basis of prior research and rational analysis as likely to represent apathy. Cronbach's alpha reliability analysis determined that these four items of the BDI-II clustered together with acceptably high internal consistency in the present sample (.75). However, overall scores on the BDI-II, including on the four items thought to reflect apathy, tended to be surprisingly low, indicating little self-reported depressive symptomatology. Consistent with prior research, the overall BDI-II showed impressive internal consistency reliability in the present sample (.92). It was predicted that higher apathy scores would be associated with poorer performance on measures of executive functioning. The sample was ethnically diverse, predominantly male, and had a mean age of 55.26 years. The mean years of education was 13.67, while the mean estimated level of premorbid intellectual functioning was 97.73. The results showed there was no significant relationship between the hypothesized apathy items and executive functioning performance. Moreover, findings showed no relationship between overall BDI-II scores and performance on measures of executive functioning. The limitations of this archival study included the absence of an independent criterion measure for the construct of apathy. Other findings, additional limitations, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (PsyD) -- Psychology; Older HIV-positive persons -- Psychology; Cognition -- Testing

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Mitchell, Cary;