College Students' Attitude Toward the Elderly with Dementia in Japan: A Comparison Between Nursing and Non-Nursing Students

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Miwako Hoshi, PhD, RN
School of Biomedical Sciences, Department of Nursing, Nagasaki University, Nagasaki, Japan
Chizuru Ikeda, BS, RN
Kumamoto University, Kumamoto, Japan
Yuri Kondo, BS, RN
Fukuoka Higashi Medical Center, Fukuoka, Japan
Maki Fujimura, BS, RN
Department of Nursing, Nagasaki University, Nagasaki, Japan
Yurie Maeda, BS, RN
Nagasaki University Medical Center, Nagasaki, Japan


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the attitude of Japanese nursing and non-nursing students toward the elderly with dementia and to investigate the effects of students’ varied background data on their attitudes shown.   


A total of 214 nursing students (n=137) and non-nursing students (n=77) was recruited to complete a questionnaire from a national university located in Southern Japan using convenience sampling method. The criterion of choosing subjects is the level of their professional nursing knowledge and clinical training experience. Based on their professional nursing knowledge and clinical experience, subjects were assigned to three groups: Group A-students receiving no formal health-related education and clinical experience training, Group B-freshman nursing students who have limited professional knowledge and no clinical experience with demented elderly people, and Group C-senior nursing students who have profound nursing knowledge and clinical experience with the elderly. A semantic differential scale with 25 bipolar pairs of adjectives is used to explore the attitudes. Demographic data collected in the questionnaire consist of age, gender, experience with the elderly suffering from dementia, whether having family members with dementia, and whether engaging in a volunteer activity held for the demented elderly. In addition, subjects’ level of empathy is assessed to use as a personality variable. Methods used in this study include descriptive statistics, Pearson’s correlation analysis and analyses of variances (ANOVAs). The former were used to examine the correlations among variables, whereas the latter were used to evaluate group differences in the attitude shown toward the elderly with dementia.      


The results showed that the senior nursing students demonstrated a significantly higher positive attitude toward the elderly with dementia compared to their freshman nursing peers as well as those non-nursing students. The findings also showed that students with more experience of interacting with or volunteering for the demented elderly demonstrated a higher positive attitude than those with less experience in interaction or volunteer work. In addition, the results revealed that people with a higher level of empathy had a significantly more positive attitude toward these elderly people.     


The study indicated that having professional nursing knowledge, clinical and volunteering experience, or even a simple interaction with the elderly with dementia may result in young college students’ positive attitude toward these elderly people. Findings of the study could be used to design courses for college nursing students in facilitating the understanding of old people living with dementia.