The Prevalence of Huntington's Disease

Neuroepidemiology. 2016;46(2):144-53. doi: 10.1159/000443738. Epub 2016 Jan 30.


Background: Reviews of the epidemiology of Huntington's disease (HD) suggest that its worldwide prevalence varies widely. This review was undertaken to confirm these observations, to assess the extent to which differences in case-ascertainment and/or diagnosis might be responsible, and to investigate whether the prevalence pattern has changed over the past 50 years.

Methods: Eighty two relevant studies were identified from Medline and Embase, previous reviews, scrutiny of references from included and excluded studies and enquiry among those interested in the field.

Results: The lowest rates were among the Asians and the highest among the Caucasians. The differences are not fully explained by varying approaches to case-ascertainment or diagnosis. There was evidence of an increasing prevalence of between 15 and 20% per decade in studies from Australia, North America and Western Europe.

Conclusions: The prevalence of HD varies more than tenfold between different geographical regions. This variation can in part be attributed to differences in case-ascertainment and/or diagnostic criteria, but there is consistent evidence of a lower incidence in Asian populations. There is also evidence that in Australia, North America and in Western Europe (including the United Kingdom), prevalence has increased over the past 50 plus years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence