ARUK - Public attitudes towards dementia

More than half of the UK public has been affected by dementia.

The Monitor has revealed that more than half of the UK public (52%) know someone who has been diagnosed with a form of dementia

The Monitor has revealed that more than half of the UK public (52%) know someone who has been diagnosed with a form of dementia, typically a family member such as a grandparent (15%) or parent (11%).

Awareness of dementia is increasing but understanding of the diseases that cause it remains low.

Just half (51%) of the public recognise that dementia can cause death

Just half (51%) of the public recognise that dementia can cause death, despite Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias now being the leading cause of death in the UK, accounting for more than 12% of all deaths.

One in five UK adults (22%) incorrectly agree with the statement ‘Dementia is an inevitable part of getting older’

One in five UK adults (22%) incorrectly agree with the statement ‘Dementia is an inevitable part of getting older’. Three in five people (60%) correctly disagree and a further 17% are unsure either way.

Around one in five people aged 15-24 (21%) and 25-34 (22%) say they do not know what happens in a person’s brain when they get dementia

Around one in five people aged 15-24 (21%) and 25-34 (22%) say they do not know what happens in a person’s brain when they get dementia, compared with one in ten people aged 55-64 (10%) and 65 or over (12%).

Just over one in five people (22%) agree that ‘I would find it hard to talk to someone who has dementia’

Just over one in five people (22%) agree that ‘I would find it hard to talk to someone who has dementia’, while around three in five people (62%) disagree.

This is compared to 27% agreeing with the statement in 2015 (when the question was asked as part of Public Health England’s British Social Attitudes Survey) suggesting a slight improvement in public acceptability and awareness around dementia in recent years.

There are specific groups within society that we must work hard to engage.

Younger adults who are less likely to have been affected by dementia

Younger adults who are less likely to have been affected by dementia.

Over a quarter (27%) of people aged 15-24 incorrectly agree that dementia is an inevitable part of getting older, compared with only 19% of those aged 55-64 years.

Those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds

Those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Around one in five people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (22%) say they do not know what happens in a person’s brain when they get dementia, compared with 14% of those who are white.

Those with no experience of dementia

Those with no experience of dementia.

Just over half (54%) of people with no experience of the condition would feel comfortable with telling others about their own dementia diagnosis, compared with 64% of those who have known someone with dementia.

Few people realise they can reduce their risk of developing dementia.

Just a third (34%) of people think it’s possible to reduce their risk of developing dementia

Just a third (34%) of people think it’s possible to reduce their risk of developing dementia, compared to 81% who think it’s possible to reduce their risk of developing diabetes. Research suggests that up to a third of dementia cases could be linked to risk factors which are within our control.

Those aged 45-54 years, the age at which taking action to improve brain health may have the greatest long-term benefit

Those aged 45-54 years, the age at which taking action to improve brain health may have the greatest long-term benefit, have the highest levels of awareness. 40% of people in this age group believe that they can reduce their risk of developing dementia compared to just 28% of 15-24-year olds.

Despite research evidence supporting the concept of ‘what’s good for the heart is good for the head’ being strongest, people are more likely to identify non-physical risk factors for dementia such as being less mentally active

Despite research evidence supporting the concept of ‘what’s good for the heart is good for the head’ being strongest, people are more likely to identify non-physical risk factors for dementia such as being less mentally active (suggested by 34% of people) and loneliness (18%) than physical risk factors like high blood pressure (5%), high cholesterol (3%) and heart disease (3%).

The Dementia Attitudes Monitor shows a desire amongst the public to understand their dementia risk

The Dementia Attitudes Monitor shows a desire amongst the public to understand their dementia risk. The majority (73%) say they would want to be told by a doctor their own personal risk of developing dementia in later life. A quarter of people (25%) do not want to know.

The public supports formal diagnosis of dementia but does not think current treatments are effective.

There is widespread support for people with dementia being given a formal diagnosis from a doctor

There is widespread support for people with dementia being given a formal diagnosis from a doctor: 82% agree that there is value in doing so, compared with just three percent who disagree.

The most common reasons given for seeing value in a formal diagnosis were to allow people to ‘plan for their future’ (59%)

The most common reasons given for seeing value in a formal diagnosis were to allow people to ‘plan for their future’ (59%), ‘access treatments that could help’ (50%) and ‘access care that could help’ (47%).

Of those who did not see value in a diagnosis, the most common reason was that it was ‘too stressful for the person being diagnosed’.

There is strong support for very early detection and diagnosis of diseases like Alzheimer’s, with 85% of people saying they would take a test, or set of tests, that could tell whether they were in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, even before the symptoms showed.

85% say they would take a test, or set of tests.

85% say they would take a test, or set of tests.

55% would take the test regardless of the effectiveness of treatments available.

55% would take the test regardless of the effectiveness of treatments available.

18% say they would take a test if they could be offered an effective prevention.

18% say they would take a test if they could be offered an effective prevention.

13% say they would take a test if they could be offered an effective treatment.

13% say they would take a test if they could be offered an effective treatment.

Half of people think that current dementia treatments are not effective

Half of people think that current dementia treatments are not effective, just a quarter (27%) consider them to be effective and one in five people (22%) is unsure either way.

There is strong support for research focused on prevention and cure and an opportunity to encourage greater public involvement in research.

The public’s key priorities for medical research are work towards finding a cure (27%) and ways to prevent the diseases that cause dementia (26%). These areas are prioritised more highly than research into ways to improve the quality of life through better care (8%) or research into drug (4%) or non-drug (3%) treatments to help with symptoms.

Which, if any, of the following types of medical research into Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia would you say are most important?

Which, if any, of the following types of medical research into Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia would you say are most important?


Research for a cure (27%)
Research for ways to prevent the disease (26%)
Research for new forms of medication to stop the disease (10%)
Research for ways to diagnose the disease earlier (9%)
Research for ways to improve quality of life through better care (8%)
Research for new forms of medication to slow the disease (4%)
Research for new forms of medication to help with symptoms (4%)
Research for non-drug treatments and therapies to help manage symptoms (3%)
None of these (2%)
Don’t know (5%)

Half of the people who participated in the Dementia Attitudes Monitor would, hypothetically, be willing to get involved in medical research for dementia

 

Half of the people who participated in the Dementia Attitudes Monitor would, hypothetically, be willing to get involved in medical research for dementia in the future; 20% would not and a further 28% are unsure.

By age, people over the age of 65 are least likely to consider getting involved in medical research for dementia (31% said they would not be willing to get involved, compared with 20% overall).

Please read the full Dementia Attitudes Monitor Wave 1 Report for a comprehensive analysis
of the UK’s attitudes towards dementia and research.