In China, Alzheimer's disease awareness and acceptance is low

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In a recent study under review in the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition and currently posted to the Research Square* preprint server, researchers from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine used the Dementia Attitudes Scale (DAS) and Alzheimer's Disease Knowledge Scale (ADKS) to examine the level of knowledge about and attitudes towards Alzheimer's disease among social residents in China.

Study: A Study of Knowledge on Alzheimer’s Disease and Attitudes of Chinese Social Residents towards Alzheimer’s disease: a cross-sectional survey in China. Image Credit: imtmphoto / Shutterstock.com

Study: A Study of Knowledge on Alzheimer's Disease and Attitudes of Chinese Social Residents towards Alzheimer's disease: a cross-sectional survey in China. Image Credit: imtmphoto / Shutterstock.com

*Important notice: Research Square publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Background

The incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's disease continues to rise worldwide with the aging population. In fact, World Health Organization (WHO) estimates indicate that by 2030, the number of individuals with dementia will reach 78 million and could further increase to 139 million by 2050.

China's population of Alzheimer's disease patients is about six million, with the percentage of individuals who have dementia being 5%, 11.5%, and 30% among 65-, 75-, and 85-year-olds, respectively.

The success of psychosocial therapy is based on understanding people's attitudes toward Alzheimer's disease. A better understanding of the disease among the population can also help in its early diagnosis and administration of better medical care.

Although China has the largest population in the world and a rapidly growing number of Alzheimer's patients, there is a dearth of studies that have examined the attitudes and understanding of the general population toward Alzheimer's disease.

About the study

In the present study, researchers performed a cross-sectional survey in which a participant population representative of villages and cities from all geographical regions of the country was assessed based on ADKS and DAS.

All study participants were above the age of 18 and of sound mind and normal cognition with no mental disorders. In addition, the participants' demographic characteristics, income, and education levels were recorded.

The ADKS comprises 30 items that assess knowledge about the seven dimensions related to Alzheimer's disease, including impact on life, diagnosis and assessment, symptoms, progression of the disease, treatment and management, procedures for caregiving, and risk factors.

The DAS measured the views about dementia on a scale of one to seven, with one being extremely disagreeable and seven being quite agreeable. Higher DAS scores indicated a more positive attitude towards dementia.

Results

The knowledge about Alzheimer's disease among the Chinese population was moderate, with an average ADKS score of 19.44. This was lower than the average ADKS score among the Brazilian population of 21.,6 that was reported from a 2018 survey and equal to ADKS scores among Alaska Natives and American Indians reported from other studies. These findings suggest a significant lack of understanding and awareness about Alzheimer's disease among the Chinese population.

The participants scored moderately high (between 70% and 80%) in aspects such as the diagnosis and assessment of Alzheimer's disease, risk factors, progression of the disease, and treatment or management options. However, scores for life impact were below 50%, which suggests that while these individuals could understand some aspects of the disease, they did not have enough scientific knowledge or clarity about Alzheimer's disease to understand how the disease would alter their lives.

The life impact module in ADKS also had the lowest accuracy rate and revealed that the general population had various misconceptions and a lack of clarity about the disease. More than 80% of the study participants believed that patients with Alzheimer's disease could drive a car if accompanied by another person, and about 50% believed that people with Alzheimer's disease could not make sensible decisions about their own lives. These findings indicate that misperceptions about Alzheimer's disease could increase the burden on caregivers and patients alike and cause conflict during interactions with patients.

The low accuracy in other areas of knowledge, such as management and treatment, symptoms, and risk factors, suggest that the general population did not consider Alzheimer's disease an imminent threat. A considerable proportion of the respondents believed that the use of reminder notes to help Alzheimer's disease patients was exacerbating the condition and increasing their reliance on such aids. More than 60% of the study participants believed that Alzheimer's disease could be treated or prevented using pharmaceutical therapy.

Conclusions

Overall, the findings from the survey indicate that there was a significant lack of understanding about the impact of Alzheimer's disease on the lives of patients. Awareness about other aspects, such as symptoms, treatment options, and the methods to help manage the disease was also low among the general population.

Given the rapid rate at which the number of Alzheimer's patients is increasing in China, comprehensive education about the disease is urgently needed to ease the burden on patients and caregivers.

*Important notice: Research Square publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:
Dr. Chinta Sidharthan

Written by

Dr. Chinta Sidharthan

Chinta Sidharthan is a writer based in Bangalore, India. Her academic background is in evolutionary biology and genetics, and she has extensive experience in scientific research, teaching, science writing, and herpetology. Chinta holds a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the Indian Institute of Science and is passionate about science education, writing, animals, wildlife, and conservation. For her doctoral research, she explored the origins and diversification of blindsnakes in India, as a part of which she did extensive fieldwork in the jungles of southern India. She has received the Canadian Governor General’s bronze medal and Bangalore University gold medal for academic excellence and published her research in high-impact journals.

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