Visualizing the 2016, 2020, and 2022 Aphasia Awareness Surveys

Rob Cavanaugh true

The National Aphasia Association (NAA) recently released an update to their aphasia awareness survey, in response to the recent news of Bruce Willis’ aphasia diagnosis.

We typically conduct this survey every four years but decided to alter the schedule in view of the recent media coverage of aphasia, following the announcement by the Willis family.

The NAA’s post nicely shows the responses for 2022 and provides a narrative description for how the responses changed in response to 2022. I thought it might be helpful to also visualize changes in survey responses across the three survey years (2016, 2020, and 2022). The following figures and tables attempt to show visually some of the narrative comparisons from the NAA blog post.

The NAA used word clouds to show common responses to the question, “Where was the last place you recall reading or hearing about aphasia?”

Figure reprinted from

To provide easy comparison, I calculate the most common words, bigrams (adjacent two-word combinations), and trigrams (adjacent three-word combinations) by year. These tables can be searched, filtered, or sorted by year, the number of mentions, and word/bigram/trigram.




The survey also asked, “In your own words, how does aphasia affect the afflicted person?”. To summarize the key words and phrases respondents used to describe aphasia I also summarized the most frequent words, bigrams and trigrams. Note that these are only for participants who the NAA considered aphasia aware in that they reported they had heard the term aphasia and could properly identify it as a language disorder.




Overall, it does appear that awareness of aphasia improved after Bruce Willis’ diagnosis of aphasia and could reasonably be attributed to the publicity surrounding his diagnosis. It will be interesting to see whether this increased awareness persists over time.

Here’s the summary from the NAA:

This aphasia awareness numbers that we see in the 2022 survey are much higher than we saw in previous surveys, and more recently, in the 2020 survey. More importantly, we’re seeing a higher percentage of people that have heard of aphasia able to properly identify it as a language disorder and understand that loss of language does not mean loss of intellect.

As more public figures are diagnosed with Aphasia, like Bruce Willis, Emilia Clarke, Gabby Giffords and so on, it’s important to help the public better understand aphasia and know where they can get aphasia resources.

R code for cleaning, combining and visualizing survey responses can be found on github here: There is an R-script for cleaning the three survey documents. The code for producing figures is in the .Rmd file.

If you have any suggestions for changes or additions, please don’t hesitate to reah out via email or twitter.


Text and figures are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution CC BY-NC 4.0. The figures that have been reused from other sources don't fall under this license and can be recognized by a note in their caption: "Figure from ...".


For attribution, please cite this work as

Cavanaugh (2022, June 27). Rob Cavanaugh | PhD Candidate: Visualizing the 2016, 2020, and 2022 Aphasia Awareness Surveys. Retrieved from

BibTeX citation

  author = {Cavanaugh, Rob},
  title = {Rob Cavanaugh | PhD Candidate: Visualizing the 2016, 2020, and 2022 Aphasia Awareness Surveys},
  url = {},
  year = {2022}