Knowing someone with dementia

Public attitudes towards dementia PDF

Public attitudes towards dementia

The Dementia Attitudes Monitor gives detailed insight into the UK’s attitudes towards, and understanding of dementia.

Findings from Wave 3 below build on Waves 1 (2018) and 2 (2021) and are based on telephone interviews conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,530 adults in the UK aged 18+ between 7 June and 4 July 2023.

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More than half of us have been affected by dementia.

The Monitor reveals that more than half (53%) of the UK public know someone who has been diagnosed with the condition. This is most often a grandparent (19%) or parent (13%).

Bar chart showing that 53% of UK adults know someone with dementia compared to 47% who do not.

Wave 3 underlines the continued need to improve understanding of the diseases that cause dementia.

‘Dementia as an inevitable part of getting older’

Dementia is not a normal part of ageing but is caused by diseases, including Alzheimer’s, that affect the brain. The majority of people (65%) correctly disagree with the statement ‘dementia is an inevitable part of getting older’, but 21% agree and 13% neither agree nor disagree.

Bar chart showing that 65% of UK adults correctly disagree that dementia is inevitable compared to 68% in 2021.

‘Dementia as a cause of death’

Dementia is the UK’s leading cause of death. Yet only 60% of the public recognise the terminal nature of the condition. Those in older age groups are more likely to agree with the statement ‘dementia is a cause of death’ than younger adults (65% of those aged 65 and over agree compared to 51% of 18-24-year-olds).

Pie chart showing that 60% agree that dementia can cause death. 21% disagree and 13% neither agree nor disagree.

Most people would feel comfortable telling others if they were diagnosed with the condition, but fear of dementia persists.

‘I would feel comfortable telling people about a dementia diagnosis’

61% of UK adults agree that they would feel comfortable telling people outside their close family if they were diagnosed with dementia.

Pie chart showing that 61% agree that they would feel comfortable telling people about a dementia diagnosis and 24% disagree.

‘Dementia is the health condition I fear most’

Half (49%) of UK adults say that dementia is the health condition they fear getting in the future most. Older adults (57% of those aged 65 or over) and people who know someone who has been diagnosed with the condition (55%) are more likely to agree that dementia is the health condition they fear most, reflecting findings from 2021.

Pie chart showing that 49% agree that dementia is the condition they fear most. 29% disagree and 20% are unsure.

Awareness of the ability to influence our risk, and understanding of the factors that shape it, remains low.

Health conditions people can reduce their risk of developing

The latest research suggests that up to four in ten of all cases of dementia are linked to factors we may be able to influence ourselves. Yet only 36% of UK adults think it’s possible for people to reduce their risk (up slightly from 33% in 2021).

Bar chart showing that 36% think it’s possible to reduce dementia risk compared to 78% for diabetes and 51% for cancer.

Awareness of dementia risk factors

When asked to consider what could increase a person’s risk, the most common responses were ‘being less mentally active’ (mentioned by 19%) followed by ‘poor diet’ (18%) and ‘genetic factors’ (17%). 30% were unable to name any risk factors for dementia – a greater proportion than in 2018 or 2021.

Bar chart showing that 19% named being less mentally active as a dementia risk factor. 1% named heart disease and stroke.

The majority of people want to better understand their personal risk of developing dementia.

‘Would want to know my risk of developing dementia’

Three quarters (76%) of UK adults say they would want to be told about their personal risk of developing dementia later in life if their doctor could provide this information (74% in 2021).

Two pie charts side by side showing that 76% would want to know their risk of developing dementia, up from 74% in 2021.

There is strong support for formal diagnosis and most people are open to doctors using new, innovative approaches.

‘Likely to seek a formal diagnosis’

The vast majority of people (89%) would be likely to seek a formal diagnosis if they were concerned they might be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

The most common reasons given for doing so are that ‘It would allow me to access treatments that could help’ and ‘It would allow me to plan for the future’.

Bar chart showing that 89% of UK adults would be likely to seek a formal diagnosis. 9% would be unlikely and 2% don’t know.

Attitudes to diagnostic tests

Most people would be willing to undergo more familiar and less invasive tests to help a doctor make an accurate diagnosis if they were concerned that they might be in the early stages of dementia. These include an eye test (95%) and a blood test (94%) – both of which are being explored as potential low-cost ways to detect the diseases that cause dementia in future.

As with previous waves of the Monitor, a much smaller proportion would be willing to undergo a lumbar puncture.

Bar chart showing that 95% would be willing to have an eye test to diagnose dementia. Just 43% would have a lumbar puncture.

Finding a cure remains the UK’s top research priority.

Priorities for dementia research

When asked which type of medical research into dementia is most important, 28% of the public selected research for a cure. Next, research into ways to prevent dementia was chosen as most important by 22%.

Bar chart showing that finding a cure is the UK’s top research priority, selected by 28% of respondents.

There is understandable scepticism around treatments currently available, but most people are optimistic about the future.

‘How effective do you think current treatments are?’

51% of UK adults say that treatments currently available are not effective. Just 19% consider them to be effective and a significant proportion (29%) don’t know (up from 22% in 2018).

Two pie charts side by side showing that 51% now consider current treatments not effective, up slightly from 50% in 2018.

‘One day the diseases that cause dementia will be cured’

The majority of people (56%) believe that one day the diseases that cause dementia will be cured. 22% neither agree nor disagree with the statement and encouragingly, just 17% disagree.

Those in the oldest age group (65 and over) were most likely to agree with this statement (67%), compared to 50% of 18-24-year-olds.

Bar chart showing that 56% agree that one day the diseases that cause dementia will be cured.

The majority of people would be willing to get involved in dementia research.

‘Willing to participate in medical research’

Two thirds (66%) of UK adults would now consider actively participating in medical research for dementia. Looking just at those who know someone who has been diagnosed with the condition, 72% would be willing to get involved.

The most common reason given by those expressing an interest in taking part is 'Research is the only answer to dementia'. As seen in 2021, uncertainty about what would be involved is the most common reason for reluctance, mentioned by 20% of those who would not take part.

Bar chart showing that 66% say they would be willing to participate in medical research. 16% say no and 16% are unsure.

Explore the UK’s attitudes towards dementia and research in more detail in the Wave 3 Report.

Public attitudes towards dementia PDF

Public attitudes towards dementia PDF

Public attitudes towards dementia PDF