Alzheimer's disease, a form of dementia that becomes progressively worse over time, is the second-most feared disease, U.S. and European researchers said Wednesday. The most feared disease? Cancer.
Many participants said that they would seek testing for themselves or a family member even if they appeared healthy.
The study results, presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Paris Wednesday, were consistent with the increased frequency of the disease's occurrence. This increase is largely a result of the rapidly aging world population. The disease has become an epidemic in South Korea, one of the world's fastest-aging nations.
Studies have found that the illness begins to develop at least a decade before symptoms become blatantly obvious. Earlier testing, although objectively terrifying, will increase treatment options for sufferers and will prepare family members.
The telephone survey asked 2,678 adults aged 18 and older in the US, France, Germany, Spain, and Poland whether they would see a doctor if they were experiencing symptoms of confusion or memory loss. 85 percent of the individuals said that they would. More than 94% said they would want a family member to see a doctor.
The respondents, when asked what their most feared disease was from a list which included cancer, heart attack, and stroke, almost 25 percent said Alzheimer's. The innate human fear of losing control is likely the reason as individuals with Alzheimer's gradually lose their ability to think and care for themselves.
Three of ten random respondents said that they had a family member who suffered from the disease. 36 million people are affected by Alzheimer's disease worldwide.
Sadly, only 2 in 10 people see some benefit from drugs. The chances are not great that the family is going to see anything from treating them, Dr. Gary Kennedy of the division of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York told Reuters.