Differences between African Americans and whites in their perceptions of Alzheimer disease

TitleDifferences between African Americans and whites in their perceptions of Alzheimer disease
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsRoberts, J. S., Connell, C. M., Cisewski, D., Hipps, Y. G., Demissie, S., & Green, R. C.
JournalAlzheimer disease and associated disorders
Date Published2003 Jan-Mar
KeywordsAdult, African Americans, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Alzheimer Disease, European Continental Ancestry Group, Female, Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Multivariate Analysis, Social Class

To design optimal health services and education programs for Alzheimer disease (AD), it is important to understand cultural differences in perceptions of the disorder. In this study, we investigated differences between African Americans and whites in their beliefs, knowledge, and information sources regarding AD. We distributed a written questionnaire through lay and professional organizations and meetings in the southeastern United States, yielding a sample of 452 adults (61% white, 39% African American; 78% female; mean age 47 years; 33% with family history of AD). The questionnaire assessed the following: (1) illness beliefs, (2) factual knowledge, (3) sources of information, and (4) perceived subjective threat of AD. African Americans and whites were generally similar in their beliefs about common symptoms, prominent risk factors, and the effectiveness of treatments for AD (although whites expressed greater certainty in these beliefs than African Americans). In comparison to whites, African Americans showed less awareness of facts about AD, reported fewer sources of information, and indicated less perceived threat of the disorder. These preliminary findings suggest important distinctions between African Americans and whites in their knowledge about, and conceptualization of, AD. Follow-up studies with more representative samples and more fully validated measures will be necessary to confirm these differences. Health psychologic research suggests that such differences in illness perceptions could shape response to disease burden, assessment and diagnosis, and available health care options.

Alternate JournalAlzheimer Dis Assoc Disord