Knowledge, health beliefs and attitudes towards dementia and dementia risk reduction among descendants of people with dementia: a qualitative study using focus group discussions

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Background Individuals with a parental family history of dementia have an increased risk of developing dementia because they share their genes as well as their psychosocial behaviour. Due to this increased risk and their experience with dementia, they may be particularly eager to receive information regarding dementia risk reduction (DRR). This study evaluated the knowledge, beliefs and attitudes towards dementia and DRR among descendants of people with dementia. Method Using a semi-structured topic guide, three focus group discussions were conducted consisting of 12 female (80%) and 3 male (20%) descendants of people with dementia with a mean (+/- SD) age of 48.8 (+/- 12) years. Focus group discussions were audio recorded and transcribed. Each transcript was analysed thoroughly, and where appropriate, a code was generated and assigned by two researchers independently. Then, similar codes were grouped together and categorized into themes. Results The items in the topic guide could only be addressed after participants had been given the opportunity to share their experiences of having a parent with dementia. Participants were unaware or uncertain about the possibility of reducing the risk of developing dementia and therefore hesitant to assess their dementia risk without treatment options in sight. Moreover, participants indicated that their general practitioner only gave some information on heritability, not on DRR. Although participants identified a large number of modifiable risk factors as a group during the group discussions, they were eager to receive more information on dementia and DRR. In the end, participants adopted a more positive attitude towards a DRR programme and provided suggestions for the development of future DRR programmes. Conclusions Although the research aim was to evaluate the knowledge, beliefs and attitudes towards dementia and DRR, sharing experiences of having a parent with dementia seemed a prerequisite for considering participants' own risk of developing dementia and participating in a DRR programme. Knowledge of dementia and DRR was limited. Due to unawareness of the possibility of reducing dementia risk, participants were hesitant about assessing their dementia risk. Group discussions positively changed the perception of dementia risk assessment and participants' willingness to participate in a DRR programme.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1344
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7-Jul-2021


  • Focus groups
  • Qualitative research
  • Primary prevention
  • Dementia
  • Attitude
  • Health beliefs
  • Awareness
  • Knowledge
  • Risk reduction behaviour
  • Dementia risk reduction
  • Life style

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