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The relationship of dementia prevalence in older adults with intellectual disability (ID) to age and severity of ID

  • A. Strydom (a1), A. Hassiotis (a1) (a2), M. King (a1) (a2) and G. Livingston (a1) (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 April 2008

Previous research has shown that adults with intellectual disability (ID) may be more at risk of developing dementia in old age than expected. However, the effect of age and ID severity on dementia prevalence rates has never been reported. We investigated the predictions that older adults with ID should have high prevalence rates of dementia that differ between ID severity groups and that the age-associated risk should be shifted to a younger age relative to the general population.


A two-staged epidemiological survey of 281 adults with ID without Down syndrome (DS) aged ⩾60 years; participants who screened positive with a memory task, informant-reported change in function or with the Dementia Questionnaire for Persons with Mental Retardation (DMR) underwent a detailed assessment. Diagnoses were made by psychiatrists according to international criteria. Prevalence rates were compared with UK prevalence and European consensus rates using standardized morbidity ratios (SMRs).


Dementia was more common in this population (prevalence of 18.3%, SMR 2.77 in those aged ⩾65 years). Prevalence rates did not differ between mild, moderate and severe ID groups. Age was a strong risk factor and was not influenced by sex or ID severity. As predicted, SMRs were higher for younger age groups compared to older age groups, indicating a relative shift in age-associated risk.


Criteria-defined dementia is 2–3 times more common in the ID population, with a shift in risk to younger age groups compared to the general population.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Dr A. Strydom, Department of Mental Health Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, UCL Hampstead Campus, Rowland Hill Street, London NW3 2PF, UK. (Email:
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