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The Dunedin dementia risk awareness project: pilot study in older adults

  • Yoram Barak (a1), Andrew R. Gray (a2), Charlene Rapsey (a1) and Kate Scott (a1)



The USA and UK governmental and academic agencies suggest that up to 35% of dementia cases are preventable. We canvassed dementia risk and protective factor awareness among New Zealand older adults to inform the design of a larger survey.


The modified Lifestyle for Brain Health scale quantifying dementia risk was introduced to a sample of 304 eligible self-selected participants.


Two hundred and sixteen older adults (≥50 years), with mean ± standard deviation age 65.5 ± 11.4 years (50–93 years), completed the survey (71% response rate). Respondents were mostly women (n = 172, 80%), European (n = 207, 96%), and well educated (n = 100, 46%, with a tertiary qualification; including n = 17, 8%, with a postgraduate qualification). Around half of the participants felt that they were at a future risk of living with dementia (n = 101, 47%), and the majority felt that this would change their lives significantly (n = 205, 95%), that lifestyle changes would reduce their risk (n = 197, 91%), and that they could make the necessary changes (n = 189, 88%) and wished to start changes soon (n = 160, 74%). Only 4 of 14 modifiable risk or protective factors for dementia were adequately identified by the participants: physical exercise (81%), depression (76%), brain exercises (75%), and social isolation (83%). Social isolation was the commonly cited risk factor for dementia, while physical exercise was the commonly cited protective factor. Three clusters of brain health literacy were identified: psychosocial, medical, and modifiable.


The older adults in our study are not adequately knowledgeable about dementia risk and protective factors. However, they report optimism about modifying risks through lifestyle interventions.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Yoram Barak, Department of Psychological Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. Phone: +64 3 4740999 ext. 58117; Fax: +64-3-4709684. Email:


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The Dunedin dementia risk awareness project: pilot study in older adults

  • Yoram Barak (a1), Andrew R. Gray (a2), Charlene Rapsey (a1) and Kate Scott (a1)


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