Early Dementia Risk

Unlocking Insights: 15 Factors Unveiled in Groundbreaking Study on Early Dementia Risk

Last Updated: 12 January 2024By

In a groundbreaking study conducted by epidemiologist David Llewellyn and his team at the University of Exeter, a significant leap has been made in understanding the risk factors associated with young-onset dementia (YOD). Analyzing data from 356,052 individuals under the age of 65 in the UK, the study highlights a range of lifestyle and health elements influencing YOD.

Key Findings:

  1. Diverse Factors at Play: The study identifies 15 distinct lifestyle and health factors associated with YOD, moving beyond traditional genetic considerations.
  2. Largest Study of its Kind: Lauded as the largest and most robust study to date, the research provides a comprehensive understanding of YOD risk factors.
  3. Actionable Insights: Excitingly, the findings suggest that interventions targeting various factors could potentially reduce the risk of YOD, offering a ray of hope for prevention.

Factors Associated with Higher YOD Risk:

  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Social isolation
  • Hearing impairment
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • High C-reactive protein levels
  • Presence of two ApoE4 ε4 gene variants

Early Dementia Risk


Complex Relationship with Alcohol:

  • Alcohol abuse increases risk
  • Moderate to heavy drinking correlates with reduced risk, possibly due to overall better health in this group

Protective Elements Against YOD:

  • Higher levels of formal education
  • Lower physical frailty, measured by higher handgrip strength

Filling Knowledge Gaps:

  • The study contributes significantly to our understanding of YOD, bridging existing knowledge gaps and shedding light on modifiable risk factors.

Insights from Neuroepidemiologist:

  • Sebastian Köhler from Maastricht University emphasizes the role of mental health, stressing the importance of avoiding chronic stress, loneliness, and depression.

Hope for Prevention and Treatment:

  • While the results do not establish causation, they contribute to a more detailed understanding of YOD, aiding in the development of better treatments and preventative measures.

Modifiable Factors for Hopeful Future:

  • The identification of modifiable risk factors brings optimism to the prospect of reducing the risk of dementia through healthier living.

Serious Impact of YOD:

  • Neuroscientist Stevie Hendriks from Maastricht University underscores the severe impact of YOD, particularly on individuals still engaged in work, parenting, and active lifestyles.

Genetic Assumptions Challenged:

  • Contrary to common assumptions of genetic causes, the study highlights the need to explore other risk factors contributing to YOD.

Published in JAMA Neurology, this research opens new avenues for the prevention and management of young-onset dementia, offering a beacon of hope for those affected by this challenging condition.