Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Time to diagnosis in young-onset dementia as compared with late-onset dementia

D. van Vlieta1, M. E. de Vugta1 c1, C. Bakkera2a3, Y. A. L. Pijnenburga4, M. J. F. J. Vernooij-Dassena3a5a6a7, R. T. C. M. Koopmansa3a5 and F. R. J. Verheya1

a1 School for Mental Health and Neuroscience, Alzheimer Centre Limburg, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, The Netherlands

a2 Florence, Mariahoeve, Centre for Specialized Care in Young-Onset Dementia, The Hague, The Netherlands

a3 Department of Primary and Community Care: Centre for Family Medicine, Geriatric Care and Public Health, Radboud University Nijmegen, Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

a4 Alzheimer Centre and Department of Neurology, VU University Medical Centre Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

a5 Alzheimer Centre Nijmegen, Radboud University Nijmegen, Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

a6 Kalorama Foundation, Beek-Ubbergen, The Netherlands

a7 Scientific Institute for Quality of Healthcare, Radboud University Nijmegen, Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands


Background The extent to which specific factors influence diagnostic delays in dementia is unclear. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to compare duration from symptom onset to diagnosis for young-onset dementia (YOD) and late-onset dementia (LOD) and to assess the effect of age at onset, type of dementia, gender, living situation, education and family history of dementia on this duration.

Method Data on 235 YOD and 167 LOD patients collected from caregivers from two prospective cohort studies were used. Multiple linear regression analysis was performed.

Results The duration between symptom onset and the diagnosis of YOD exceeded that of LOD by an average of 1.6 years (2.8 v. 4.4 years). Young age and being diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia were related to increases in the time to diagnosis. Subjects with vascular dementia experienced shorter time to diagnosis.

Conclusions There is a need to raise special awareness of YOD to facilitate a timely diagnosis.

(Received January 23 2012)

(Revised April 15 2012)

(Accepted April 24 2012)

(Online publication May 28 2012)

Key words

  • Diagnostic delay;
  • early onset dementia;
  • presenile;
  • time to diagnosis;
  • young onset dementia


c1 Address for correspondence: M. E. de Vugt, Ph.D., Maastricht University Medical Centre, School for Mental Health and Neuroscience/Alzheimer Centre Limburg, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, PO Box 5800, 6202 AZ Maastricht, The Netherlands. (Email: