Does universal health care affect attitude toward dementia?

Jan 15, 2009

A new study has found that in spite of their universal health care system which facilitates access to free dementia care, older adults in the United Kingdom are less willing to undergo dementia screening than their counterparts in the U.S. because the Britons perceive greater societal stigma from diagnosis of the disease than do Americans.

Researchers surveyed 125 older adults in Indianapolis and 120 older adults in Kent, England, on their opinions on the perceived harms and benefits of dementia screening. None of those surveyed had been diagnosed with dementia, however significantly more of the U.K. participants (48 percent) had close friends or relatives who have or had Alzheimer's disease compared to U.S. participants (27 percent).

The study of public attitudes toward early detection of dementia across different health-care systems was conducted by researchers from Indiana University in the United States and the universities of Kent and London in the United Kingdom. The research was funded in part by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, and appears in an advance online publication of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

"From my prospective, it was a genuine surprise that having a universal health care system, which provides services and support to all those who need it, didn't protect from perceived stigma and negativity," said the study's corresponding author, Malaz Boustani, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine and a Regenstrief Institute research scientist.

Even when taking into account education and race differences, Britons indicated greater concern with the stigma of diagnosis, with potential loss of independence, and with emotional suffering than their American counterparts.

"This study, which investigates the acceptance and societal stigma associated with dementia - something very difficult to track - provides us with a unique insight as Americans debate the pros and cons of universal health care," said study first author, Michael Justiss, Ph.D., assistant professor of occupational therapy, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Dementia is a growing global public health problem in both countries leading to a high burden of suffering for society with an annual cost of $100 billion in the U.S. and $10 billion in the U.K.

"In spite of the fact that new strategies for both treatment and prevention of dementia are currently being developed, this study gives us an initial awareness so that we can develop improved care pathways for dementia. We hope the United Kingdom's Dementia Strategy published in the next few months will consider some of this study's findings," said Chris Fox, MB, BS of the University of Kent, who led the British researchers.

"This pilot study is the beginning, not the end. We need to do further exploration with a bigger sample, with different types of individuals. But this study which found deep concern about dementia screening despite access to health care services in U.K., clearly tells us that there are many issues we must explore as we attempt to retool the American health care system. We have to be careful not to put the horse before the cart as we debate national health care in the U.S.," said Dr. Boustani, who is also an IU Center for Aging Research center scientist. Dr. Boustani has written extensively on the dementia screening.

Source: Indiana University

Explore further: New hope for rare disease drug development

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Virtual reality guides those whose memory is failing

Aug 20, 2014

Experts agree that the ability to navigate a neighborhood or built space is one of the first faculties to suffer at the onset of cognitive decline. They also agree that early intervention is crucial for stemming ...

Recommended for you

New hope for rare disease drug development

3 hours ago

Using combinations of well-known approved drugs has for the first time been shown to be potentially safe in treating a rare disease, according to the results of a clinical trial published in the open access Orphanet Journal of ...

Three weeks since last Ebola case in Mali: WHO

6 hours ago

Mali has not had a case of Ebola for three weeks, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, completing one of the two incubation periods the country needs to be declared free of the virus.

Migraine may double risk for facial paralysis

6 hours ago

Migraine headache may double the risk of a nervous system condition that causes facial paralysis, called Bell's palsy, according to a new study published in the December 17, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the medical journa ...

Anti-diabetic drug springs new hope for tuberculosis patients

13 hours ago

A more effective treatment for tuberculosis (TB) could soon be available as scientists have discovered that Metformin (MET), a drug for treating diabetes, can also be used to boost the efficacy of TB medication without inducing ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.