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

New findings from a comprehensive survey of UK-wide public perceptions of dementia highlight the enduring misconceptions around the physical nature of the diseases that cause dementia, which is now the leading cause of death in the UK.

The Dementia Attitudes Monitor, run by Alzheimer’s Research UK, will be repeated biennially, included data from 2,300 interviews conducted by Ipsos MORI between 15 June and 5 July 2018.

The Monitor reveals just 1% of UK adults are able to name the seven known risk or protective factors for dementia. These factors are: heavy drinking, genetics, smoking, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes.

The Monitor also reveals overwhelming public appetite for research developments that could provide better information about dementia risk.

Key findings include:

  • 52% of adults now say they know someone with dementia
  • 51% recognise that dementia is a cause of death and 22% incorrectly believe it’s an inevitable part of getting older
  • 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.

Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It is a sad truth that more people are affected by dementia than ever before and half of us now know someone with the condition.

“Yet despite growing dementia awareness, we must work harder to improve understanding of the diseases that cause it. Dementia is the UK’s biggest killer but only half of people recognise it even causes death, and almost half of UK adults are unable to name one of seven known risk factors for dementia including smoking, high blood pressure and heavy drinking.

“Many of these enduring misconceptions influence attitudes to research, with the Dementia Attitudes Monitor showing that those who believe dementia is an inevitable part of ageing are also less likely to value a formal diagnosis or to engage with research developments that could bring about life-changing prevention and treatments.

“Making breakthroughs in public understanding has the potential to empower more people to take steps to maintain their own brain health, to seek a diagnosis and to support research that has the power to transform lives.”

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