Cross-cultural representations of dementia: an exploratory study

Clara Calia, Harry Johnson, Mioara Cristea

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Abstract

Background
An ageing global population will bring a significant increase in the prevalence of dementia, with the need for a collaborative international effort to combat this public health challenge being increasingly recognised. To be successful, this cooperation must be sensitive to the different cultural environments in which dementia is positioned, which shape the variety of clinical, political and social approaches to the condition worldwide. The aim of this project is to examine the social representations of dementia among people from three countries with different health care systems. More specifically, to investigate the internal structure of the social representations of dementia within the framework of the structural approach among British, American and Chinese lay-people.

Methods
A sample of 194 participants completed a free association task and a justification task in response to the stimulus word ‘dementia’. The data was subsequently analysed within the framework of the structural approach to social representations, using prototypical analysis.

Results
The American group’s unique elements were nearly exclusively concerned with physical and cognitive decline, and elements referring to care were focused on external support, namely nursing homes. In the Chinese group, there were several elements referring to behaviour, but a much greater emphasis on cognition than predicted by the literature. Elements concerning care were, as expected, focused on the family. In the British group, there was also a cognitive focus, but this was accompanied by elements which portrayed the experience of the condition from the perspective of those affected, and a reference to relative well-being in the context of care.

Conclusions
Social representation theory proved to be a viable method in gathering data on cross-cultural differences in how dementia is understood and approached. The current study demonstrated how the conceptualisation of the condition’s relationship with the cognitive, behavioural and affective dimensions might have an impact on the structure and form of care for those living with dementia in each culture.
Original languageEnglish
Article number011001
JournalJournal of Global Health
Volume9
Issue number1
Early online date30 Mar 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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