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Alzheimer’s: Information overload?

Blog: Health

3/23/2016
— Olivia Al-Adwani 

Is it just me, or are you surprised by the volume of information published just in the last month about prevention of Alzheimer’s disease?

While it is certainly encouraging to see the interest in Alzheimer’s research, as a consumer, it is difficult to keep up with what you should be doing or eating. In March alone, we have seen media relay how all these factors can reduce your risk:

Alongside these positive factors, it has been reported that the following may increase your chances of developing the disease:

While a news stream can help to keep a topic/initiative/brand at the forefront of people’s minds, is it possible to cause information overload, creating the opposite effect? As consumers, are we becoming immune to advice? Consumers may start adopting a ‘yet another story’ attitude, or simply be left wondering what to believe — not understanding how significant the findings really are, resulting in reduced engagement.

The question is — who is responsible of making sure this doesn’t happen?

Obviously, it is critically important for this research to continue, even small research projects can ultimately lead to big findings, but how much do consumers need / want to know?

On one hand, continuous small (or big) stories could provide ongoing hope — especially to those individuals, friends and families affected. However, on the flip side, does the flow of information about causes and protective effects, cause these individuals to feel they could have done more? Additionally, the lack of engagement risks mentioned above may cause people to miss significant learnings in future about Alzheimer’s prevention.

Should the media take on the responsibility of ensuring a balance is reached on this, and in other disease areas like cancer for example? Perhaps not in entirety, but it is their responsibility to make sure the reporting is fair and balanced — does not scaremonger or give false hope. NHS Choices ‘behind the headlines’ webpage provides excellent examples of how findings can become contorted in the media.

While there is likely no easy solution, and the consequences of this ‘information overload’ cannot be truly quantified, it is important that somewhere down the line, accountability is taken to ensure responsible and valuable messages reach consumers, helping to strike a better balance, and ultimately improve understanding of this condition.

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