Australians don’t know enough about dementia, and that’s a problem

We all know about dementia as a concept, but do we really know that much about dementia in reality?

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has recently conducted a Dementia Awareness Survey, the largest national community survey of its kind in Australia, and the results show we have a lot to learn about this unfortunately common condition.  

And we do need to know more because dementia is not going away anytime soon. In 2023 it was estimated about 411,100 Australians were living with dementia. This is equivalent to 15 people with dementia per 1000 Australians, which increases to 84 people with dementia per 1000 Australians aged 65 and over. Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of Australians with dementia are women.

With an ageing and growing population, it is predicted that the number of Australians with dementia will more than double by 2058 to 849,300.

We need to know more

The AIHW study found Australians were unsure about what they know about dementia and what can be done to reduce the risk of developing dementia.

That’s probably best summed up by the sad reality that one in five Australians still believes the misconception that aluminium cookware increases the risk of developing dementia. 

And we need to know more because the study found more informed people improved their risk factors. 

Dementia is more common with age, but it is not a normal part of ageing and as such there are behaviours and risk factors that can be modified to decrease the risk of dementia. 

What are the risks

The good news is that while the survey found that Australians generally were unsure about their knowledge of dementia, more than 70 per cent knew some ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia, including keeping moving, learning new things, being socially active and cutting down on drinking.

However, only about 50 per cent did not know about less-known preventative factors including avoiding polluted air and eating a Mediterranean diet

According to the study, about 40 per cent of the risk of developing dementia can be reduced by avoiding certain behaviours including cutting back on tobacco and alcohol abuse, avoiding sports that may include head injuries, improving cholesterol levels, maintaining a healthy weight and managing depression. 

In some ways, Australians are already decreasing their risk. The survey found most Australians (99.6 per cent) were engaged in one or more behaviours that would reduce their risk of developing dementia, but generally as a side effect for other health reasons. For example, keeping your blood pressure down or being socially active are also practices that reduce your risk of dementia. 

About the survey

In 2023, more than 5,400 people aged 18 and over completed the Dementia Awareness Survey to understand general knowledge of dementia and dementia risk factors and community attitudes towards dementia and people living with dementia in Australia.

Survey results will be used to inform policy decisions, improve community attitudes towards people living with dementia and support research into delaying dementia onset and slowing down its progression. 

Do you know about the risk factors for dementia? Has that knowledge changed your behaviour? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

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Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


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