Reducing the Risk of Young-Onset Dementia: Study Reveals Targetable Factors


A groundbreaking study conducted by the University of Exeter and Maastricht University has identified a variety of risk factors associated with young-onset dementia. Contrary to common belief, genetics alone are not solely responsible for the development of this condition. The study’s findings offer new insights into prevention strategies and suggest that targeting health and lifestyle factors may help reduce the risk of young-onset dementia.

Although there has been limited research on young-onset dementia, there are approximately 370,000 new cases reported globally each year. To address this gap, the University of Exeter and Maastricht University collaborated to conduct a large-scale study. The research followed over 350,000 participants under the age of 65 from the UK Biobank study. The study examined a wide range of risk factors, including genetic predispositions, lifestyle choices, and environmental influences. Titled “Risk Factors for Young-Onset Dementia in the UK Biobank: A Prospective Population-Based Study,” the findings were published in JAMA Neurology.

The study identified 15 risk factors that significantly elevate the risk of young-onset dementia, many of which are similar to those associated with late-onset dementia. These factors include lower formal education, lower socioeconomic status, genetic variations, lifestyle choices such as alcohol use disorder and social isolation, and health issues like vitamin D deficiency, depression, stroke, hearing impairment, and heart disease.

Professor David Llewellyn of the University of Exeter emphasized the significance of these findings and highlighted the role of international collaboration and big data in advancing dementia research. The study is the largest and most robust of its kind, providing hope that targeted interventions can help reduce the risk of this debilitating condition.

Dr. Stevie Hendriks, a researcher at Maastricht University, mentioned the serious impact of young-onset dementia, as those affected often still have work responsibilities, children, and active lives. While genetics are commonly assumed to be the primary cause, the study aimed to investigate other risk factors that contribute to the condition’s development.

Professor Sebastian Köhler of Maastricht University noted that previous research on late-onset dementia highlighted several modifiable risk factors, including physical factors and mental health issues such as chronic stress, loneliness, and depression. The revelation that these factors also play a role in young-onset dementia surprised the researchers, but it presents new opportunities to reduce the risk within this demographic.

Dr. Janice Ranson, a senior research fellow at the University of Exeter, described the breakthrough nature of the study, highlighting the potential for interventions to reduce the incidence of young-onset dementia. The findings open up new possibilities for targeted interventions and prevention strategies.

Dr. Leah Mursaleen, Head of Clinical Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, recognized the transformative nature of this research, both at the individual and societal level. Over the past few years, there has been a growing consensus that dementia is associated with modifiable risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and hearing loss. These factors are estimated to contribute to up to four in 10 dementia cases worldwide.

This pioneering study fills an important knowledge gap by shedding light on factors that can influence the risk of young-onset dementia. While further studies are necessary to validate and expand on these findings, the research provides hope for new approaches to reduce the incidence of this condition.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it