DOI: 10.1002/alz.075442 ISSN: 1552-5260

Attitudes toward dementia and cognitive aging among Syrian refugees resettled in Jordan: A qualitative study

Lana Bridi, Dahlia A. Kaki, Tala Al‐Rousan
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology



Mounting evidence is revealing disparities in cognitive function and heightened dementia risk among refugees, yet research in this area remains scant. Despite hosting the majority of the world’s refugee burden, limited‐resource countries like Jordan are facing challenges supporting older migrants’ needs. Syrian refugees experience high rates of dementia risk factors including cardiovascular disease, mental ill‐health, and traumatic exposures. The attitudes toward dementia amongst refugees in Jordan and what cognitive healthcare gaps this population faces remain a research gap. This study’s objectives are to identify refugees’ knowledge and attitudes toward dementia and cognitive aging, and to explore factors that facilitate or prevent access to cognitive healthcare in resource‐limited settings.


32 older Syrian refugees were recruited through a local community‐based organization and interviewed in four gender‐concordant focus groups. Interviews were transcribed and translated, then coded using inductive thematic analysis.


All refugees were 55 years or older and lived below the Jordanian poverty line. Results were organized using the Social Ecological Model of Health: 1) At the individual level, participants believed high levels of stress, including low socioeconomic status, poor health, and traumatic history from their refugee experience increased their dementia risk. 2) Interpersonally, there is a fear of dementia due to its possible impact and caregiving burden on loved ones, particularly with the stigma that surrounds the disease. 3) At the community level, participants noted that resettlement in Jordan – with shared language, religion, and culture – offered protective effects due to facilitated access to social connection, information, and mental health self‐care. 4) Finally, at the policy level, participants believed older refugees faced restrictive policies for economic aid, healthcare, and employment, presenting a significant barrier to healthy aging.


Findings from this study are the first to examine the perceptions of aging Syrian refugees in Jordan toward their cognitive aging. These results could provide essential data as the country develops its national dementia plan. Overall, participants understand their risk factors for dementia and endorse poor cognitive aging in a country that struggles to support its own population’s basic needs.

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