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Dementia as an existential threat: The importance of self-esteem, social connectedness and meaning in life

Cheston, Richard; Christopher, Gary; Ismail, Sanda


Sanda Ismail
Senior Lecturer in Public Health


© 2015, Science Reviews 2000 Ltd, All right reserved. Dementia is an umbrella term for a large number of illnesses, all of which involve neurodegenerative changes in the brain. The most common forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, but there are over 100 other, rarer conditions. All of these different illnesses involve a progressive decline of cognitive functions in which symptoms gradually spread, so that eventually almost all areas of cognitive functioning are affected. Over time, these cognitive changes compromise the person’s practical ability to manage everyday activities, leading to increasing levels of dependency on those around them. At present there is no cure for any form of dementia. If we are to achieve an understanding of the psychological impact of dementia, then we also need to understand the way in which dementia acts as an existential threat. Dementia can compromise identity, challenge independence, prompt social isolation and threaten our ability to find meaning and purpose in life. Thus, a 2014 YouGov poll commissioned by Channel Five news in the UK found that fear of dementia was greater than fear of cancer, particularly amongst older people1


Cheston, R., Christopher, G., & Ismail, S. (2015). Dementia as an existential threat: The importance of self-esteem, social connectedness and meaning in life. Science Progress, 98(4), 416-419.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 5, 2015
Publication Date Dec 1, 2015
Deposit Date Nov 6, 2015
Journal Science Progress
Publisher Science Reviews 2000
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 98
Issue 4
Pages 416-419
Keywords dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, mnemic neglect, nostalgia, self-esteem, social connectedness, meaning in life, existential threat
Public URL
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