A new poll has found that Scots fear the onset of dementia more than a heart attack, cancer or even death.
The fact that the questions were asked by the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK might give some clue as to why the results came out as they did, but the poll is interesting nevertheless.
37% of respondents in Scotland named dementia as their most dreaded disease. 23% said cancer was their biggest fear while there were 12% who had a general fear of death.
More than half (52%) of UK adults aged 30 to 50 fear dementia for their parents compared to the 42% who worried most about cancer and 33% said heart attacks.
And among pensioners, 34% put health worries above money problems, with 53% more concerned by the threat of dementia than of cancer or strokes.
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia affect 820,000 people in the UK. There are more female sufferers than male, although the fact that women, on average, live longer may explain this.
So far, no one single factor has been identified as a cause for Alzheimer’s disease. It is thought likely that a combination of age, genetic inheritance, environmental factors, diet and overall general health are responsible.
But research spending on dementia is far behind that of other diseases, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK, even though the condition costs more than twice as much to treat.
It estimates that £23 billion is spent on dementia patients in the UK each year compared to £12bn on cancer patients and £8bn on heart disease.
“Public concern around dementia is at an all-time high, yet dementia research is still the poor relation in both capacity and investment,” said Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the charity.
And this point was backed up by the author Terry Pratchett, who himself suffers from the illness.
“When the world was shocked by HIV in the eighties, we saw a crash programme of research which has helped tame it enormously. We need the same kind of aggressive action on dementia now,” said Pratchett.
Much of the funding for scientific research still comes from public donations and fundraising. And at a time when money is tight this is a concern to charities that promote research across a whole host of illnesses.