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Open Access Research article

Public knowledge and beliefs about dementia risk reduction: a national survey of Australians

Ben J Smith1*, Suha Ali2 and Henry Quach1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Lev 3, 89 Commercial Rd, Melbourne 3004, Australia

2 Alzheimer’s Australia (Victoria), 155 Oak Street, Parkville 3052, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:661  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-661

Published: 28 June 2014

Abstract

Background

With the dramatically increasing contribution of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia to the global burden of disease, countries are being urged to address this as a public health priority. This study investigated whether Australian adults recognise this as an important health issue, and hold beliefs and knowledge that are consistent with recommendations concerning dementia risk reduction. This research was undertaken to guide national brain health awareness and education strategies.

Methods

A cross-sectional telephone survey was undertaken of 1,003 Australians aged 20–75 years. This measured the importance placed on dementia, beliefs and confidence related to risk reduction, knowledge of risk reduction methods, and the perceived age-relevance of these. In analysis the data were stratified by sex, age, educational attainment, household income, language preference and previous exposure to dementia. Multivariable logistic regression was undertaken to identify variables independently associated with beliefs and knowledge.

Results

People aged 60 years and over identified dementia as very important (17.2%) more often than those aged 40–59 years (5.1%) or 20–39 years (2.1%). While 41.5% of respondents believed the risk of dementia could be reduced, 26.9% were very confident that they could achieve this. Mental activity (57.1%) was identified as beneficial much more often than physical activity (31.3%), healthy eating (23.3%) and other cardiovascular health behaviours. Women, people of English-speaking origin, and those having contact with a person with dementia, showed better knowledge of several health behaviours.

Conclusions

Growing attention is being given to population risk reduction to combat the dramatic increase in the burden of disease due to dementia. In Australia many people do not yet hold beliefs and knowledge that support this, which highlights the need for concerted awareness raising that dementia is not an inevitable aspect of ageing, and for education about the role of vascular health in dementia risk reduction.

Keywords:
Dementia; Cognitive health; Health behaviours; Health promotion