Alzheimer’s Society: A Survey on Stigma

A 2017 survey conducted by the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada shows that overt stigma around dementia continues to be widespread in Canada and affects many aspects of life for people living with dementia.  There are many examples of the impact stigma can have:

  • Lack of awareness can cause friends and family to feel intimidated or unable to connect. 
  • Stigma can discourage support from others – this survey found that two out of three caregivers find caring for someone with dementia to be isolating and that only 39% of Canadians would offer support for family or friends who were open about their diagnosis.  Only 5% admit they would learn more about dementia if someone close to them were diagnosed.
  • Stigma can lead to unfair treatment based on incorrect assumptions about their abilities. 58% of Canadians believe that people living with dementia are likely to be ignored or dismissed.  Each person’s journey with dementia is different, and harmful assumptions can be frustrating or hurtful.
  • Stigma can cause people to use negative language.  51% admit to using derogatory or stigmatizing language about dementia, and 30% of Canadians admit to telling dementia-related jokes.  Negative language focuses on weaknesses rather than supporting abilities and personhood.
  • Self-imposed stigma can cause negative feelings and effects for people. 56% of Canadians are concerned about being affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. Of greatest concern is their fear of being a burden to others, losing their independence, and not being able to recognize family and friends. 
  • 50% of Canadians don’t believe they could live well with dementia. In fact, 27% believe their life would be over after getting diagnosed.  And finally, one in five Canadians would avoid seeking help for as long as possible, if they thought they had dementia, perhaps to avoid the associated stigma and embarrassment.

The full Alzheimer’s Society of Canada’s survey can be found in the Materials tab above.