Overdiagnosis of dementia in young patients - a nationwide register-based study

Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2012;34(5-6):292-9. doi: 10.1159/000345485. Epub 2012 Nov 30.


Background: Little is known about the quality of the diagnostic evaluation and the validity of dementia diagnoses in young patients established in routine clinical practice. The aim of this study was to investigate the validity of the diagnosis of dementia registered in the Danish nationwide hospital registers in young patients.

Methods: Two hundred patients were randomly selected from 891 patients <65 years registered with a dementia diagnosis for the first time in 2008. The patients' medical records were reviewed to evaluate if they fulfilled ICD-10 and/or DSM-IV criteria for dementia and current clinical criteria for specific dementia subtypes.

Results: A registered diagnosis was found to be correct in only 59%. A misdiagnosis of dementia occurred primarily in patients with depression or alcohol abuse.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that dementia is overregistered and overdiagnosed in young patients. This may be due to a different symptom profile of dementia in young patients, lack of knowledge among clinical physicians and the wide range of conditions which may be misinterpreted as dementia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / psychology
  • Diagnostic Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diagnostic Errors / trends
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Population
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Antidepressive Agents