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New research highlights barriers to dementia risk reduction, testing and screening

A recent study has identified a range of barriers which impede community engagement in dementia risk-reduction behaviours across the lifespan.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of clinical syndromes which can affect thinking, memory and behaviour. Although dementia disproportionately affects older people, dementia is not a normal part of ageing. The risk of developing dementia can be reduced through engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviours, such as exercise and healthy eating, over the life course. Advances are also being made in identifying people who may be more at risk of developing dementia through genetic and biomarker testing. Community acceptance of dementia testing, however, has not been widely studied and is important to know for future health prevention initiatives and screening.

New research by Institute members have identified, for the first time, that willingness to engage in various methods of screening for dementia susceptibility is significantly influenced by socio-demographic factors.

A survey was conducted with over 600 Australians to explore contemporary attitudes towards, and barriers to, dementia risk reduction and screening relative to other common health conditions.

“Our study found that higher socio-economic groups were more likely to undertake retinal imaging and assessment of modifiable risk factors than lower socio-economic groups. More familiar measures, such as blood tests, were acceptable across socio-economic groups which possibly speaks to the perceived accessibility of these methods in the face of financial hardship.” says lead author, Dr Nikki-Anne Wilson.

The survey also revealed that 63% of respondents would like to know their dementia risk and were largely willing to pay for dementia testing. However, several concerns in undertaking dementia testing were also identified, such as repercussions for employment and relationships, anxiety over the result, and the perceived lack of ability to do anything about a potential diagnosis.

“This study provides valuable insight regarding the need to consider individual and systemic barriers to engaging in dementia risk reduction behaviours and screening to best support those most at risk.”

The full article can be found here