Public confused about dementia, study finds

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The most common misconception about dementia among the general public is that it is a normal part of aging, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Trinity College Dublin and St James's Hospital's Dementia Services Centre in Ireland.

Other points of confusion, according to the researchers:

  • At what point normal age-related memory loss becomes severe enough to indicate dementia.
  • The role that modifiable risk factors play in the development of the disease.
  • Whether individuals have control over whether they develop dementia.

The researchers came to their conclusions after reviewing 40 research articles from 15 different countries published over the past 20 years. Their work was published in Alzheimer's Disease and Associated Disorders.

The investigators also found that knowledge of dementia was particularly poor among racial and ethnic minority groups, where several myths about the causes of dementia were found. Where demographic variables were examined, education and gender appeared to be associated with good knowledge; women were by and large better informed than men, and better-educated people had higher levels of knowledge.

"The research findings point to the need for health promotion and prevention policies to be developed for all stages of life," said Suzanne Cahill, PhD, director of the Dementia Services Information and Development Center and associate professor of social work and aging at the School of Social Work and Social Policy at Trinity, who led the research team. Educational and advocacy programs should target groups where knowledge is lacking, she added.

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