Young-onset dementia refers to any type of dementia that develops in persons below the age of 65. Symptoms of dementia may present themselves differently in a younger person, as compared to dementia in an older adult.
It is a myth that dementia affects only older adults. Over 50 million people worldwide live with dementia in 2020, and this number is expected to increase to 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050.1 Approximately 5% to 6% of the number is young-onset dementia, amounting to around 3.9 million people living with young-onset dementia as of 2021.2
In the past few years, the number of younger Singaporeans being diagnosed with dementia is increasing at an alarming rate. More than 100 individuals are diagnosed with young-onset dementia at the National Neuroscience Institute every year.3
Varied Symptoms in Young-onset Dementia
Not only do the symptoms manifest differently in younger persons, the condition has a greater impact on a younger person’s life, immediate family, and the society as compared to older adults living with dementia.2,4
• Persons living with young-onset dementia are more likely to experience problems with their motor skills, including movement and coordination.
• Dementia affecting the frontotemporal brain regions is more common in younger persons, affecting planning and executive functions.
Impact of Dementia on Younger People
Compared with older adults, younger persons are at different life stages. These make their experience of dementia uniquely different from older people. Some of these situations might include:2,4
• Younger persons are more likely to be in employment and possibly at higher points in their career with more responsibilities, upon the onset of dementia. The symptoms of their dementia may become apparent at work, causing them to lose their jobs. This can further result in loss of financial well-being for their families.
• A younger person is more likely to be a parent with younger children. Thus, they will face more challenges and lose parental responsibilities as they may gradually be unable to care for their younger children.
At the same time, most existing dementia care services and programmes in Singapore are designed for older adults and may not be suitable for younger persons, given the difference in experience. There are very limited services and programmes which are effective and age-appropriate for this group of individuals.5
When George found out he had dementia, he was only 46 years old. As an ex-chemistry teacher, a published author of chemistry textbooks, and an active runner who always kept in good health, it was a shock to him, his wife and their three children.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of dementia, consult a family doctor or polyclinic doctor who can guide a person through the process of tests and diagnosis.
- Dementia statistics. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease International. Retrieved 24 March, 2021, from https://www.alzint.org/about/dementia-facts-figures/dementia-statistics/
- Hendriks, S., Peetoom, K., Bakker, C., van der Flier, W. M., Papma, J. M., Koopmans, R., Verhey, F., de Vugt, M., Köhler, S., Young-Onset Dementia Epidemiology Study Group, Withall, A., Parlevliet, J. L., Uysal-Bozkir, Ö., Gibson, R. C., Neita, S. M., Nielsen, T. R., Salem, L. C., Nyberg, J., Lopes, M. A., Dominguez, J. C., … Ruano, L. (2021). Global prevalence of young-onset dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Neurology, 78(9), 1080–1090. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaneurol.2021.2161
- Chiew, H. J. (2021, July 5). Young-onset dementia: Improving outcomes with early recognition at primary care. SingHealth. https://www.singhealth.com.sg/news/defining-med/Young-Onset-Dementia
- Alzheimer Society of Calgary. (n.d.). Young-onset dementia. Retrieved 5 March, 2020, from https://www.alzheimercalgary.ca/learn/types-of-dementia/young-onset-dementia
- Siew, W. J. W. (2021). Support programmes for people with young-onset dementia. Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities. https://lkycic.sutd.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/LKYCIC-LLMAU-Webpost-Oct-2021-Support-Programmes-for-PYOD-Final.pdf