Still Underway to Achieve “Correct Understanding”

From a Telephone Survey on Dementia

March 2007

Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare estimates that the number of elderly people suffering from dementia will keep growing and peak in 2040 with four million persons. Given this circumstance, dementia policies will become an even more important issue in the future. With the recent introduction of new therapeutic agents and methods of care, “conventional wisdom” on dementia is dramatically changing. Nearly two years has passed since the official term for dementia in Japanese “chihou-sho,” literally meaning “forgetful idiot disease,” was altered to “ninchi-sho,” literally meaning “recognition disease.” The author surveyed public attitudes to dementia.

A telephone survey conducted by the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute in November 2006 showed 47% of the respondents “have or had family or friends suffering from dementia,”  revealing dementia has become a familiar disease. When asked whether they knew about dementia, 70% of the respondents said, “Yes,” indicating the term “dementia” has spread among the people to some extent. Two out of three respondents were anxious that they might get dementia in the future, with men feeling more anxiety about it than women did. In the meanwhile, questions about knowledge on dementia suggested correct understandings of the disease were not prevalent enough: although more than 80% correctly answered that they “think younger people can also get dementia,” only less than a half of the respondents chose correct answers to remarks such as “Dementia is a symptom of aging and not a disease” or “Medicines do not work.” The survey result also revealed that even people with experience in dementia care do not necessarily have correct understandings of the disease. Spreading accurate knowledge on the disease shall be the first step in creating an environment where people with dementia can live in peace.

The NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research