Background: This study investigated whether brief exposure to information has any effect on stigmatizing attitudes towards older people with dementia, and how people responded to this medical diagnosis.
Methods: 494 adults were randomly assigned to three groups differentiated by experimental conditions. Group A (control) responded to questions on stigma directly. Group B (symptom) read two vignettes that described the symptoms of two fictitious individuals with dementia, before answering questions on stigma. Group C (label) read the same vignettes which ended with a statement that the person was recently diagnosed with dementia by a physician. Data were analyzed with ANOVA, together with other pre-existing between-subjects factors.
Results: Brief exposure to information about dementia led to a statistically significant reduction in stigma (Groups B, C < A), regardless of whether the diagnostic label of “dementia” was included or not. Moreover, lower stigma was reported by persons who knew a relative or friend with dementia, who were younger and more educated, and who thought dementia was treatable.
Conclusions: As stigmatizing attitudes toward dementia are still a hindrance to early help-seeking in Asian communities, the findings suggest that community education may play a useful role in alleviating this barrier to early detection and intervention.