Knowledge of stroke risk factors and warning signs in Ireland: development and application of the Stroke Awareness Questionnaire (SAQ)

Int J Stroke. 2012 Jun;7(4):298-306. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-4949.2011.00698.x. Epub 2011 Dec 8.


Background: Inability to recognize stroke warning signs and delay in seeking medical attention for recognized symptoms contribute to treatment delay, thus limiting the potential for intervention and impacting negatively on potential stroke outcome.

Aim: To examine knowledge of stroke risk factors and warning signs in the adult population in Ireland.

Methods: In 2009, 1000 members of the general public were interviewed by telephone using quota-based population sampling of adults (≥18 years). Information was gathered using the Stroke Awareness Questionnaire (SAQ).

Results: 71% of participants could correctly list two or more risk factors for stroke, typically generic lifestyle risk factors. Two-thirds could not identify two warning signs for stroke. While 31% could identify two or more stroke warning signs, there was no consistency in warning signs identified. Less than 50% stated they would call an ambulance if having a stroke. Overall, there were significant gaps in knowledge, with poorest levels evident in those aged ≥65 years.

Conclusions: Survey findings provide first evidence on levels of knowledge of stroke risk factors and warning signs in the Irish adult population. Awareness of stroke warning signs was poor, as was awareness of the need to call emergency services and the potential for acute stroke intervention. These factors contribute to delay in seeking medical attention following stroke, with resulting implications for stroke outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Awareness
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Health
  • Stroke / prevention & control*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Urban Health