Seniors' Attitude on Age May Affect Dementia Test Results: Study

Health professionals should account for self-perception before making a diagnosis, researchers say

THURSDAY, June 14, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors who regard themselves as "older" are five times more likely to meet the criteria for dementia than those who see themselves as "younger," a small new study suggests.

The study included 68 people, aged 60 to 70, who were divided into two groups. One group was told that the study participants ranged in age from 40 to 70 and that they were at the upper end of the age range. The other group was told that the participants ranged in age from 60 to 90 and that they were at the lower end of the age range.

All of the participants were then given one of two articles to read, which either described how aging affected memory or how aging affected general thinking ability.

The participants then underwent a standard dementia screening test.

Seventy percent of the people who were encouraged to see themselves as older and read the article that said aging was associated with a general decline in thinking ability met the criteria for dementia, compared with 14 percent of those in the other groups.

"Our research shows that the effect of age perceptions on performance can be dramatic, and that seeing oneself as 'older' significantly increases a person's risk of being diagnosed with dementia on such tests. It highlights the importance of taking a person's attitude towards their age into account when assessing for dementia," study lead author Dr. Catherine Haslam, of the University of Exeter, in England, said in a university news release.

The study was scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the International Conference on Social Identity and Health, hosted by the University of Exeter. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about dementia.

SOURCE: University of Exeter, news release, June 11, 2012
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