The influence of the age of dementia onset on college students’ stigmatic attributions towards a person with dementia [2020]

Research in the area of public stigma and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is limited to examining stigmatic beliefs towards persons aged 65 and over (i.e., persons with late-onset dementia). The aim of the present study was to compare college students’ stigmatic attributions towards an older and a younger person with AD, using an attributional model of stigma.

A cross-sectional study was conducted with 375 college students (mean age = 25.5, 58.9% female, 64.3% Jewish) who answered a computerized, self-administered, structured questionnaire after being presented with one of two randomly distributed vignettes varying in the age of the person with AD – 80 or 50 years of age. Cognitive, emotional and behavioral attributions of stigma were assessed using an adapted version of the Attribution Questionnaire. Other variables examined included background information, experiences and concerns about developing AD. T-tests and Ordinary Least Square (OLS) hierarchical regressions were used to analyze results.

Similar to previous studies, students’ levels of dementia stigma were low to moderate. Negative attributions were consistently and significantly higher (β = .17 to .33, p < .01), and positive attributions were significantly lower (β = −.26, p < .01) when the target person was younger rather than older.

The differences in stigmatic beliefs towards a younger and older person with AD point to the theoretical and practical importance of clearly stating the age of the target person in stigma studies as well as in programs aimed at reducing public stigma towards persons with AD.

Perla Werner, Lilach Raviv-Turgeman & Patrick W. Corrigan
BMC Geriatrics volume 20, Article number: 104 (2020)