What is dementia?

Choose a question to find out more about dementia.

Who gets dementia?

In most cases, doctors don’t know why some people get the illnesses that cause dementia, but other people don’t. They are working hard to find out more about dementia.

Here are some facts we do know:

  1. The illnesses that cause dementia don’t spread from person to person. You don’t have to worry about ‘catching’ dementia from someone else.
  2. Not all older people get dementia. For every 1000 people older than 65, around 18 will develop dementia each year.
  3. The younger a person is, the less likely they are to have dementia.
  4. Most people who have dementia become ill when they are in their late 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s.
  5. Sometimes a person who is younger than 65 gets an illness that causes dementia, but this is less common. It is called early-onset or young-onset dementia.
  6. Around 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia (that’s around 1.3% of the whole population).
  7. Around 40,000 of these people are younger than 65. That means for every 100 people with dementia in the UK, two are younger than 65.

Will I get dementia?

When somebody you know is very ill, it can make you worry that you (or someone else in your family) might become ill too.

Lots of different factors contribute to someone getting an illness that causes dementia. This means that it’s impossible to predict exactly who will get them so it can seem to happen by chance.

Having a relative with one of these illnesses does not mean that you are much more likely to get dementia when you are older.

A few, very rare, types of dementia are genetic, which means that they can be passed down from one family member to another. People can only have this kind of dementia if their mother or father had it. Only a very small number of people have these types of dementia, and not everyone in their family will get the illness.

If you are worried about dementia, ask for help to find out more. Everyone with dementia is different, so internet search engines don’t always lead you to the right answers. The best people to ask are the doctors or nurses caring for your relative.


young girl with her family on a walk

This information was updated in December 2017 and is due for review in December 2019. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.