The general public's knowledge and perceptions about rheumatic diseases

Elly M. van der Wardt, Erik Taal, Johannes J. Rasker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    OBJECTIVE: In the Netherlands, the mass media pay little attention to rheumatic diseases. For this reason, it might be assumed that in general people know very little about rheumatic diseases and thus have an unrealistic image of them. The purpose of this study was to gain insight into the general public's knowledge and perceptions regarding rheumatic diseases in the Netherlands.

    METHODS: A questionnaire was sent by mail to a random sample of 1800 Dutch homes; the response was 658. Questions mainly focused on knowledge, attitudes, behavioural intentions and use of the mass media with regard to rheumatic diseases.

    RESULTS: The respondents gave the right answer to a mean of 8.2 statements out of 17 true/false statements regarding factual knowledge of rheumatic diseases. Respondents particularly underestimated the prevalence of rheumatic diseases and were unaware of several rheumatic disorders. Most respondents had rarely used the mass media to gain information about rheumatic diseases, but they did show a moderate interest in acquiring information. Knowledge correlated positively with the respondents' level of education, acquaintance with rheumatic patients, and use of the mass media. Knowledge correlated negatively with the idea that rheumatic patients are themselves able to influence the course of their disease. In general, respondents judged rheumatic diseases to be rather serious but did not feel very frightened or vulnerable of becoming a rheumatic patient. Fear of rheumatic diseases correlated positively with interest in information about rheumatic diseases, intentions of visiting a doctor if experiencing rheumatic complaints and helping rheumatic patients in daily life.

    CONCLUSIONS: This study found that the public in general do not know very much about rheumatic diseases, but they do have a moderate desire for more information about them. Furthermore, they do not feel frightened of being confronted with a rheumatic disorder. More information about rheumatic diseases in the media might lead to better knowledge and perception of rheumatic diseases among the general public.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)32-38
    Number of pages7
    JournalAnnals of the rheumatic diseases
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


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