Illness Representations of Alzheimer's Disease: Predictors of Perceived Consequences and Attitudes about Screening and Information

Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2013

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Leventhal's Common Sense Model posits that mental representations of illness affect how people manage health threats. The purpose of this study was to explore people's perceptions about the consequences of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and how beliefs about consequences relate to attitudes about being screened for AD and obtaining AD information. Thirty-three adults with varying exposure to AD were interviewed to identify potential consequences of having the disease. Next, 214 nondemented older adults rated 50 AD consequences on two dimensions: the perceived likelihood of each consequence occurring should they develop AD, and how upsetting they currently found each consequence. Additional questions evaluated personality, prior AD experience, AD knowledge, memory contentment, AD concern, perceived benefits of AD screening, and openness to AD screening and information. Hierarchical linear multiple regression analyses were used to predict AD consequence likelihood and upsetting ratings, and AD screening and information attitudes. Consequences of AD spanned several functional, interpersonal, and emotional domains and, on average, were perceived as likely and upsetting. Likelihood ratings were predicted by greater AD concern and knowledge; upsetting ratings were predicted by greater AD concern and memory contentment, lower education, and no AD experience. Participants reported greater willingness than interest or intent in being screened or obtaining AD information. AD screening openness was predicted by greater perceived screening benefits and AD concern, lower consequence likelihood and memory contentment, and being male. AD information openness was predicted by greater neuroticism, conscientiousness, and perceived screening benefits, lower memory contentment, and being a caregiver. Results from this study suggest that older adults recognize that AD involves many consequences but vary in their views of how AD would influence their lives. Consequences had a limited role in predicting AD screening and information attitudes, drawing into question the utility of the Common Sense Model when considering AD and nondemented adults.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Brian D Carpenter

Committee Members

Janet M Duchek, Jason J Hassenstab, Denise Head, Janice L Palmer, Desiree A White


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K72Z13GD

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