Background: The progression of dementia in people with young-onset dementia (YOD) is relatively unknown.
Objective: To investigate the progression of dementia and cognitive decline in the three most common subtypes in YOD and to explore which factors are associated with this course.
Methods: The course of dementia was examined in 198 people with YOD. The primary outcomes were cognitive function, as assessed by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and dementia severity, as assessed by the Global Deterioration Scale (GDS). Mixed-model analyses were used to explore factors associated with the course of dementia of the diagnostic sub-types.
Results: The mean overall two-year progression of dementia severity was 0.9 GDS points, this was a statistically significant change (p = 0.012) and was not significant different for the three dementia subtypes. The mean overall two-year decline in cognitive function was 1.6 points on the MMSE. The differences in cognitive decline were statistically significant (p = 0.046) among the three diagnosis groups, AD participants showed the greatest decline, of 2.3 points. In addition to lower education (p = 0.010), higher scores on the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) sub-syndromes psychosis (p < 0.001) and hyperactivity (p = 0.002) were associated with higher rates of cognitive decline. In contrast, higher scores on the NPI affect cluster were associated with lower levels of cognitive decline (p < 0.001).
Conclusion: Different YOD subtypes show different rates of decline in cognitive functioning, and this decline seems less progressive compared to those observed in studies in late-onset AD. Further research is needed to evaluate whether managing neuropsychiatric symptoms can positively influence the decline of cognitive function.
Keywords: Cognitive decline; progression of dementia; young onset dementia.