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The social construction of dementia: Systematic review and metacognitive model of enculturation

Bosco, Alessandro; Schneider, Justine; Coleston-Shields, Donna Maria; Higgs, Paul; Orrell, Martin

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Alessandro Bosco

Justine Schneider

Donna Maria Coleston-Shields

Paul Higgs

Director - Institute of Mental Health


© 2018 Elsevier B.V. Background: The stigma associated with dementia may be influenced by how the condition has been socially constructed throughout history. Objectives: To conduct a systematic review tracing the historical representations of dementia, from the perspectives of cultural transmission theory and social constructivism. Methods: A systematic search was run on five electronic databases: Wellcome Library, PsycINFO, CINAHL, IBSS, and EMBASE. Articles were screened and analysed through deductive content analysis. We further applied a communication system theory to graphically describe how dementia has been experienced through time. Results: Ten primary sources and 33 secondary sources were consulted. Seven themes emerged from the analysis: a problem of aging; use it or lose it; divine punishment; loss of agency; psychosis and insanity; brain degeneration and objectification; and dementia as a social condition. Each theme corresponds to a particular way of conceptualising dementia and has influenced modern representations of the condition. Conclusion: Past characterisations of dementia have influenced modern views of the condition. It is through enculturation that these views are interpreted, assimilated, or rejected by individuals and transmitted within and across cultures. A better understanding of the social construction of dementia can improve public health approaches to rehabilitation and care.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 15, 2018
Online Publication Date Nov 17, 2018
Publication Date Feb 1, 2019
Deposit Date Mar 31, 2020
Publicly Available Date Apr 1, 2020
Journal Maturitas
Print ISSN 0378-5122
Electronic ISSN 1873-4111
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 120
Pages 12-22
Keywords Obstetrics and Gynaecology; General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: The social construction of dementia: Systematic review and metacognitive model of enculturation; Journal Title: Maturitas; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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