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The impact of aging stereotypes on dementia worry

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Dementia worry, an anxiety-related response to the possibility of developing dementia, represents an important yet underexplored health concern for an aging population. Such a construct is likely impacted by stereotypes concerning aging, including biased associations of aging with inevitable cognitive decline. The present article explores the impact of mixed positive and negative aging stereotype messages on levels of dementia worry. The Fear of Alzheimer’s Disease Scale (FADS) was used to measure impact of priming with different proportions of positive and negative aging stereotype words. The priming intervention was modeled after Levy (J Pers Soc Psychol 71:1092–1107, 1996, doi:10.1037/0022-3514.71.6.1092). Eighty older adult participants (M age = 71.65, SD = 6.57) were exposed to mostly positive aging stereotype words, half positive/half negative words, mostly negative words, all negative words, or non-stereotype words. Mean FADS item response was significantly impacted by priming such that those in the all negative condition had highest levels of dementia worry, F(4, 75) = 2.48, p = .05, \(\eta_{p}^{2} = 0.12\). This effect was strengthened when relevance of aging stereotypes was controlled for, p < .01. Results suggested that brief exposure to negative aging stereotype content increased levels of dementia worry, particularly when stereotypes were self-relevant. These findings indicate addressing aging stereotypes may be one way of impacting dementia worry.

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Correspondence to Joie Molden.

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Responsible editor: H.-W. Wahl.

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Molden, J., Maxfield, M. The impact of aging stereotypes on dementia worry. Eur J Ageing 14, 29–37 (2017).

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