The authors report on clinical features and mortality rates in a group of 149 patients with apparent idiopathic parkinsonism starting before the age of 40 years. Ten had juvenile parkinsonism (JP; onset before age 21 years) and 139 had young-onset Parkinson's disease (YOPD; onset at age 21 to 40 years). Included were 60 patients originally reported 10 years ago. Fifty percent of the JP group had a positive family history of parkinsonism in a first-degree relative, and clinical presentation was heterogeneous. Mortality risk was threefold that of the normal population. In the YOPD group, the mortality risk was double that of the normal population. Poor initial response to L-dopa was a risk factor for early death. In two previously reported patients, the diagnosis had been changed to multiple system atrophy and Machado-Joseph disease. After a median disease duration of 18 years, cognitive impairment was found in only 19% of YOPD patients (13% of those younger than 60 years and 43% of those 60 years or older). Age was the most important factor for development of dementia, but female sex and positive family history of parkinsonism also had more modest predictive value. After a disease duration of 10 years or less, only 5% of patients were experiencing falls and 30% freezing, but all patients had developed L-dopa-related fluctuations and dyskinesias. The authors conclude that the mortality rate in parkinsonism starting before the age of 40 is increased in comparison to the normal population and is similar to the general Parkinson's disease population. Intellectual function and postural reflexes are usually well preserved for many years despite a long history of parkinsonism and the early and frequent occurrence of treatment complications, provided the patients remain biologically and chronologically young.