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New report reveals two thirds of people think dementia is a normal part of ageing, rather than a medical condition

Health Industry Hub | September 23, 2019 |

A new global survey of almost 70,000 respondents across 155 countries – including Australia – has revealed a startling lack of knowledge around dementia, with two thirds of people thinking the disease is a normal part of ageing.

The survey, commissioned by Alzheimer’s Disease International, of which Dementia Australia is a member, also found that a staggering 95 per cent of respondents think they will develop dementia in their lifetime.

The World Alzheimer Report 2019: Attitudes to dementia, is being released today ahead of World Alzheimer’s Day on Saturday 21 September. The report reveals the results of the world’s largest survey ever undertaken into attitudes to dementia.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said the report, which estimates there are more than 50 million people living with dementia globally, reinforces the need to change attitudes to dementia and, specifically, to reduce stigma and discrimination.

“These findings confirm there is much more to be done to raise awareness about dementia – which is the leading cause of death of women in Australia, and the second leading cause of death overall of all Australians,” Ms McCabe said.

“While age is a risk factor, dementia is not a normal part of ageing, and there is no cure for this progressive illness. There are estimated to be 447,000 Australians with dementia and, without a medical breakthrough, this is expected to increase to almost 1.1 million by 2058.”

The survey also found that more than 85 per cent of respondents living with dementia stated their opinion had not been taken seriously.

Ms McCabe said stigma and discrimination around dementia are critical issues.

“We know, because people living with dementia tell us, that discrimination exists and that it impacts on their everyday life,” she said.

“Too many people do not know where to turn, and there is a perception in communities that nothing can be done following a diagnosis of dementia.”

Stigma and knowledge issues around dementia were still found to be major barriers, not only for people seeking support but also in the basic understanding of dementia as a medical condition.

“We know that discrimination can have a significant impact at an individual level, as well as being a potential barrier between major breakthroughs in research and funding that could improve the lives of people living with dementia,” Ms McCabe said.

“Data specific to Australia showed that 55 per cent of the general public in Australia thought that people living with dementia are impulsive and unpredictable.

“We must tackle discrimination and provide support for people and communities across Australia.

“Dementia is the chronic disease of the 21st century. We have a responsibility to think differently about dementia and end discrimination.

“We need everyone, from family and friends, work colleagues, to government and researchers, to think and behave differently to bring about a societal shift in thinking about dementia.”

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