Psychological Medicine

Review Article

The prevalence and incidence of dementia with Lewy bodies: a systematic review of population and clinical studies

S. A. Vann Jonesa1 and J. T. O'Briena1a2 c1

a1 Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, UK

a2 Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK


Background Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is increasingly recognized as a common cause of dementia in older people. However, its true frequency remains unclear, with previous studies reporting a prevalence range from zero to 22.8% of all dementia cases. This review aimed to establish the population prevalence and incidence for DLB and to compare this to its prevalence in secondary care settings.

Method A literature review of all relevant population and clinical studies was conducted using PubMed. Additional references from papers found during that process were added to this.

Results DLB accounted for 4.2% of all diagnosed dementias in the community. In secondary care this increased to 7.5%. The incidence of DLB was 3.8% of new dementia cases. There was a significant increase in DLB diagnoses when using the revised (2005) International Consensus Criteria (ICC) for DLB compared to the original (1996) criteria.

Conclusions DLB currently accounts for around one in 25 dementia cases diagnosed in the community and one in 13 cases in secondary care. The significantly higher rates of DLB in secondary care may reflect enhanced diagnostic accuracy in specialist settings and/or the increased morbidity and carer burden of the DLB syndrome compared to other dementias. However, the true prevalence is likely to be much higher because DLB diagnoses are often missed, although there is evidence that new criteria aid case identification.

(Received November 15 2012)

(Revised January 31 2013)

(Accepted February 12 2013)

(Online publication March 25 2013)

Key words

  • Dementia;
  • Lewy body dementia incidence;
  • prevalence;
  • review


c1 Address for correspondence: Professor J. T. O'Brien, Department of Psychiatry, Level E4, Box 189, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge CB2 0QC, UK. (Email: