Dementia Affects Majority of New Zealanders; New Study Shows Australians 'More Afraid' of Disease

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By Reissa Su | August 25, 2014 1:55 PM EST

A new study has revealed dementia has affected majority of New Zealand's population. About 64 per cent of New Zealanders have a family member who is afflicted with the degenerative brain disease.

REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
An elderly man takes part in a rally to commemorate International Workers' Day, or Labour Day, in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, May 1, 2014. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

The new research suggested that more needs to be done to raise awareness for the disease. Alzheimer's New Zealand advocate Colin Mathura Jeffree said the country has made little progress in educating more people about dementia.

He said family members often deal with the degenerative disease "behind closed doors." However, Jeffree said dementia is a "community illness" that should be given more attention.

Despite the study suggesting dementia plagues the lives of most New Zealanders, Catherine Hall, executive director of Alzheimer's New Zealand, said only about of those affected know about the disease.

Hall said people should be able to learn more about one of New Zealand's "most significant" diseases to help their loved ones who have dementia.

Compared against the international response to dementia, New Zealanders were found to be generally "less fearful." The study also found New Zealanders to be "more accepting" of the disease than others around the world.

Hall explained that Kiwis' attitude toward dementia is more positive which she took as a good sign for people to be willing to know more about the disease. She said unlike New Zealanders, one-fourth of Australians are afraid of dementia the most.

Reports said the release of the new study marks the beginning of New Zealand's major awareness campaign to promote better understanding of dementia.

The About Dementia campaign urges New Zealanders to learn more about the condition which affects them, family members or friends. Health experts have identified dementia as New Zealand's most significant healthcare challenges. Hall said more people should know about the disease so they will be able to recognise early warning signs and seek support immediately.

New Zealand's Ministry of Health and Pub Charity funds and supports the About Dementia campaign. People affected with dementia will be featured to share their experiences including the challenges they faced. 

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(Photo: REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko / )
An elderly man takes part in a rally to commemorate International Workers' Day, or Labour Day, in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, May 1, 2014. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
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