Half of UK adults can’t identify single key risk factor for dementia

Charity Alzheimer’s Research UK releases first wave of national dementia perceptions survey.

The author(s)

  • Laura Thomas Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
  • Nick Philp Observer
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Findings from one of the most comprehensive surveys of UK-wide public perceptions of dementia and research have been revealed today by Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity. The findings highlight enduring misconceptions around the physical nature of the diseases that cause dementia as well as low understanding of the risk factors for dementia, which is now the leading cause of death in the UK.

The Dementia Attitudes Monitor, which will be repeated biennially, includes data from 2,361 interviews conducted by Ipsos MORI between 15 June and 5 July 2018.

The Monitor reveals that just 1% of UK adults are able to name seven known risk or protective factors for the dementia (risk factors: heavy drinking, genetics, smoking, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes, protective factor: physical exercise) and 48% fail to identify any. With a third of cases of dementia thought to be influenced by factors in our control to change, the findings highlight a clear need for education around dementia prevention.

The Monitor also reveals overwhelming public appetite for research developments that could provide greater information about dementia risk or give an earlier diagnosis of the diseases behind dementia, most commonly Alzheimer’s.

Key findings include:

  • More than half of UK adults (52%) now say they know someone with dementia.
  • Only half (51%) recognise that dementia is a cause of death* and more than 1 in 5 (22%) incorrectly believes it’s an inevitable part of getting older.
  • Only 34% of people believe it’s possible to reduce the risk of dementia, compared with 77% for heart disease and 81% for diabetes.
  • Three-quarters (73%) of adults would want to be given information in midlife about their personal risk of developing dementia later in life, if doctors could do so.

*Base: Adults 15+ in UK without a dementia diagnosis (2,354)

In addition, the Alzheimer’s Research UK Dementia Attitudes Monitor reveals that the majority of the public agree there is value in people with dementia being given a formal diagnosis (82%). In addition, an overwhelming number of people (85%) would be willing to take a test through their doctor to tell them whether they were in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s or another dementia, even before symptoms showed, if research was able to deliver such a breakthrough in the coming years.

Laura Thomas, Research Director, Ipsos MORI said:

The Dementia Attitudes Monitor will be the first of its kind to track over time changing perceptions about dementia and research. We hope it will shine a light on unhelpful misconceptions that persist and highlight the opportunities to break through these misconceptions to direct efforts towards a world free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.

The Monitor also reveals key groups of people whose understanding of dementia is lower, including those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, younger adults under the age of 24, and over 65s – who are less likely to be open to the idea of research developments or volunteer to take part themselves. The report sets out key areas of action that are needed to address gaps in public understanding of dementia or attitudes to research, including how the condition is portrayed in popular culture and how risk reduction campaigns are developed in future.


Technical Note

Alzheimer’s Research UK Dementia Attitudes Monitor, 2018: All interviews were carried out as part of Ipsos MORI’s regular face-to-face omnibus survey by Ipsos MORI interviewers in participants’ homes, using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI). A total of 2,361 interviews were conducted with adults aged 15 and over in the UK between 15th June and 5th July 2018. The face-to-face omnibus uses a rigorous sampling method to ensure a good geographical spread, using quotas for gender, age, working status and tenure to ensure that the sample is nationally representative.

The author(s)

  • Laura Thomas Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
  • Nick Philp Observer

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