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Public Attitudes to Dementia in Scotland

Authors: Susan Reid, Jennifer Waterton, Annie Wild

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Summary

This report presents findings from the 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes survey (SSA) on public attitudes to dementia. It is intended to fill a gap in the evidence base in relation to detailed information about attitudes towards and beliefs about dementia across Scotland. Commissioned by the Life Changes Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the report is part of a programme of work to improve understanding and awareness of dementia, and to inform future policy in relation to developing a positive environment for people living with dementia.

Introduction

Dementia, and the diseases which underlie it, presents one of the greatest global health challenges of our time. The number of people living with dementia worldwide is estimated to be 44 million and is set to double by 2030 and to almost triple by 2050 (Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2014). The global costs are currently estimated to be £356 billion per year (Public Health England and UK Health Forum, 2014). The World Health Organization and Alzheimer’s Disease International have called for dementia to be made a global public health priority.

In Scotland, according to recent estimates, there are approximately 90,000 people living with dementia, of whom around two-thirds (67%) are female. Age is the greatest risk factor for dementia; however, it is estimated that around 3,000 people in Scotland aged under 65 live with dementia. The number of people with dementia in Scotland is increasing, as it is elsewhere, because the population is getting older. In line with global trends, the number of people with dementia in Scotland is set to double within the next 25 years.

There is no known cure for dementia, and much attention has therefore focused on living well with dementia, reducing the risk or delaying the onset of the disease, securing an early diagnosis, improving the care of those living with the condition, supporting the families, carers and friends of people with dementia, and changing the way people think in order to reduce the stigma associated with dementia (ibid; Knapp et al, 2007).

The Scottish Government made dementia a national priority in 2007 signalling that action to address issues related to dementia would be developed. In 2009, the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Alzheimer’s published the ‘Charter of Rights for People with Dementia and their Carers in Scotland’ (Scottish Parliament, 2009). This document emphasised that people with dementia and their carers have the right to be free from discrimination when their lives are affected by dementia. The values set out in this charter are internationally recognised, and have underpinned the development of responses to dementia in Scotland