Published on: October 25, 2015
by Judith Duffy for The Herald Scotland:
Women are more likely than men to fear dementia, according to a new survey which has uncovered significant differences between the sexes in attitudes towards the disease.
The year-long study by researchers at the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) at Stirling University, found that men were more likely to think that dementia can be helped by hospital care and drugs and were more optimistic about a cure being developed in their lifetime.
In contrast, women were more likely to say they fear dementia more than cancer and that they would rather die than have dementia.
Researchers say the differences between male and female attitudes could be because women are more likely to take on the role of carer, and therefore have direct experience or have thought about the impact of the disease.
The report also notes the findings raise questions about the extent to which dementia policy in the UK is dominated by “typically male” outlook, as most decision makers in government and charities are men.
Professor June Andrews, director of the DSDC, said: “Women are more affected by dementia worldwide, more likely to get it, be carers for those with it, as well as be in lower paid jobs as carers in the industry.
“They are more likely to be concerned that they or their loved ones will get dementia whereas mean believe there will be a cure in their lifetime.
“In essence, women are realists and men are slightly more oblivious.”
The result of the UK-wide survey, is part of global study being revealed at the International Dementia Conference taking place in Birmingham next month (3-4 November), which will discuss topics ranging from training and research to the arts and design for dementia patients.
The survey shows both men and women have significant concerns about the diagnosis, care, treatment and support offered to dementia patients.
But while 50% of women said they fear dementia more than cancer, only 34% of men agreed with this statement.
And 35% of women said they would rather die than have dementia, but this figure fell to 25% for men.
More women also said they believed that voluntary euthanasia should be a legal option open to people with dementia – with 30% agreeing with this statement compared to 25% of men.
Men were more likely to be more optimistic that dementia could be helped with drugs and medicine – 50% agreed compared to 44% of women.
A higher percentage of men also believed there will be a cure for dementia in their lifetime, at 12% compared to 9% for women.
Men were also more than twice as likely as women to view dementia as a normal part of ageing – with 16% holding this view, compared to just 7% of women.
The report said: “These differences are significant because most of the people affected by dementia are women, whether as patients, carer or care workers and most of the influential decision makers, whether in government or charities, are men.
“This includes government ministers, civil servants, senior doctors and the chief executives and boards of the leading dementia specific charities.”
It concluded: “There are questions to be asked about the extent to which dementia policy in the UK is dominated by a “typically male” outlook that does not reflect the reality of caring.
“That trend runs counter to the “typically female” attitude of women, which is more based on front line care or real experience of the effects of dementia.”
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