Who gets dementia?

Dementia can affect anybody - male or female, wealthy or poor - from any part of the world.

Researchers have discovered some risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood of developing dementia. Age is the biggest risk factor: most people with dementia are older than 65 and the likelihood increases as people get older into their 80's and 90's. This tells us that older people are more likely to develop dementia than younger people.


Here are some more facts about dementia:

1. Around one million people in the UK are living with dementia.


2. The diseases that cause dementia are not infectious – they don’t spread from person to person.


3. The younger a person is, the less likely they are to develop dementia. A 65-year-old is less likely to develop dementia than an 85-year-old. When someone who is younger than 65 gets and has dementia it is called young-onset or early-onset dementia.


4. Dementia is not a normal part of getting older. Most older people don’t have dementia, but it does become more common for people who live into their 90’s.


5. In the UK, about 40,000 people living with dementia are younger than 65.


6. Certain lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and not doing enough physical activity can increase a person’s risk of developing dementia. By looking after our health we can look after our brains too and reduce our risk of dementia.


7. Certain genes can increase a person’s risk of developing dementia. In most cases these genes don’t cause dementia – they just make a person at higher risk of developing it.


8. A few, very rare, types of dementia are genetic. This means that they are caused by faulty genes and can be passed down from a parent to their child. These types of dementia are very rare and not everyone in their family will inherit the disease. If your family is affected by a rare genetic form of dementia you can read more here.


9. Certain medical conditions increase a person’s risk of developing dementia, such as diabetes type 2, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.


Most cases of dementia are caused by a complex mix of things, including a person’s genes, age, lifestyle and environment. By understanding the risk factors for dementia, scientists hope to find ways to prevent, treat and cure dementia in the future. You can find out more about dementia research by exploring our dementia research section.

Find out more below:

This information was updated in November 2021 and is due for review in November 2023. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.

Dementia research

Find out more about research and hear from our researchers about why they chose a career in science.

Genes and dementia

We are often asked about the genetics of dementia – whether diseases like Alzheimer’s can be inherited, or passed down through families.