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Cross-cultural differences in dementia: the Sociocultural Health Belief Model

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 December 2012

Philip Sayegh*
Departments of Psychology and Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
Bob G. Knight
Department of Psychology, Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
Correspondence should be addressed to: Mr. Philip Sayegh, Departments of Psychology and Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, 3620 S. McClintock Avenue-SGM 501, M/C 1061, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA. Phone: +1 925-788-1657; Fax: +1 213-746-9082. Email:


Background: Many minority ethnic (ME) older adults face several culturally associated and systemic barriers to timely dementia diagnoses that may result in delays to dementia care-seeking. We aimed to develop and propose a model illustrating variables that influence dementia care-seeking among ME older adults.

Methods: We conducted a literature review on the effects of these barriers on diagnostic delays and impairment levels at initial evaluation. We also strived to provide a basis for the Sociocultural Health Belief Model (SHBM) to guide future research and service planning pertaining to culture and dementia care-seeking.

Results: There was consistent evidence that ME older adults with dementia tended to have greater diagnostic delays and higher levels of cognitive impairment and behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia at initial evaluation than their non-Hispanic White counterparts. We also found several barriers to dementia care-seeking among ME groups. These barriers included lower levels of acculturation and accurate knowledge about dementia, more culturally associated beliefs about dementia, such as the perception of memory loss as normal aging and stigma associated with dementia, and health system barriers.

Conclusions: The SHBM provides an empirically based conceptual framework for examining cross-cultural differences in dementia care-seeking among diverse groups. We provide recommendations for future research, such as the need for research with more diverse ethnic subgroups and the examination of group-specific cultural values. We conclude with a discussion of the clinical and service implications of our review, including potential interventions aimed at facilitating timely dementia diagnoses among ME older adults.

Review Article
Copyright © International Psychogeriatric Association 2012

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