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AARP conducted a study to explore the level of awareness of facts and myths about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia among adults age 18 and older.

More than nine in 10 (92%) adults believe that Alzheimer’s disease is a serious problem in our country today and two-thirds (68%) of adults said they know someone who has had Alzheimer’s disease or dementia or another disease causing cognitive decline. Despite this high level of exposure to dementia and other diseases affecting cognitive ability, awareness of some key characteristics of these conditions is sometimes low. 

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Perceptions and misperceptions:

  • A majority (61%) of adults know that “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s disease” are not interchangeable terms for the same disease.
  • Dementia is not a mental illness, but nearly six in 10 (59%) adults age 18 and older believe it is.
  • While it is normal for aging adults to forget a name or date, this type of information is typically recalled later; however, it is not normal to forget where you live, for example. Three-quarters (75%) of adults believe that memory loss is a normal and natural part of aging.

Diagnosis and treatment:

  • Relatively few adults (36%) have been asked questions about their cognition during a check-up with their doctor. A higher percentage (44%) of adults age 65 or older have been asked.
  • Nearly half (49%) of adults incorrectly believe that treatments are available to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Two-thirds (67%) of adults age 18 and older incorrectly believe Alzheimer’s disease can be diagnosed with a single test. In fact, diagnosis is a multi-step process. 

SSRS conducted telephone interviews for AARP among a nationally representative sample of 1,004 adults age 18 and older on May 8-12, 2018. Random Digit Dialing (RDD) was used for both landlines and cell phones. The data were weighted by age, gender, race, ethnicity, employment status, and income to reflect national population estimates. For more information, contact Laura Mehegan at For media inquiries, contact Eden Godbee at​​



Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia Awareness Poll 2018 (Report, PDF)


Infographic (PDF)