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Study finds more needs to be done on dementia awareness

19 September 2019

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) is calling for a greater effort in improving dementia awareness, with a focus on providing the information people need, rather than what they already know.

With dementia rapidly becoming a major health issue in New Zealand, it is predicted that the number of people living with dementia will rise to over 170,000 by 2050.

RANZCP President, Associate Professor John Allan, calls for more targeted awareness campaigns to address the gaps in knowledge around dementia.

‘We are seeing a lot of information out there available to people around dementia but the information oftentimes is repeating the same message,’ said Associate Professor John Allan.

‘There needs to be an emphasis on more targeted campaigns that focus on educating people on what they don’t know about dementia.

‘The sensible approach is to a) learn what people know and, b) focus on raising awareness of the areas they aren’t aware of.

‘There are a number of lifestyle changes that can help reduce the risk of dementia, the problem is that many people aren’t aware of this.'

A recent study, presented at the RANZCP New Zealand 2019 Conference, by psychiatrist and author Associate Professor Yoram Barak, found that older adults in the cohort were not overly knowledgeable about dementia risk and protective factors.

‘USA and UK governmental and academic agencies suggest that up to 35% of dementia cases are preventable,’ explained Associate Professor Barak.

‘We canvassed a selection of older New Zealanders and found that whilst many of them weren’t well versed in dementia risk and protective factor awareness, around 88% felt that they could make the necessary life changes to reduce the risk of dementia.

‘It became very clear through the study that the issue of awareness is more about brain health literacy – with the key premise being that unless people know dementia ‘risk and protective factors’, they can’t apply and benefit from the knowledge.'

The pilot study was followed by a representative survey of 1,004 older adults demonstrating that there are 3 “clusters” of brain-health literacy subsets in the population. We aim to design tailored education for each cluster in order to increase knowledge helpful to maintain brain health in the general population.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 (0)3 9640 0646 or +61 437 315 911, or email

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

The views and opinions expressed in this release are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the RANZCP.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or


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