Research Highlights Lower Life Expectancy Lewy Body Dementia


Research highlights lower life expectancy of Lewy body dementia patients

Professor John O’Brien led the study with Dr Annabel Price, both consultant psychiatrists and researchers at CPFT, to investigate why people with Lewy bodies dementia (DLB) have a lower life expectancy than those with Alzheimer’s dementia (AD).

Dementia causes progressive problems with memory, thinking, problem-solving and language.

The most common causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease; vascular dementia; Lewy body dementia;

fronto-temporal dementia (Pick’s disease); and mixed dementia, which is due to more than one cause.

DLB is the second most common dementia subtype after AD, accounting for around 7% of dementia diagnoses in secondary care, though studies suggest that it is underdiagnosed by up to 50%.

People living with Lewy body dementia may have visual hallucinations, fluctuation in cognitionsleep problems, and symptoms like those of Parkinson’s disease.

They often report having difficulty with dizziness and balance making them more likely to fall.

Previous studies have involved smaller cohorts of patients and concluded that people with DLB have a shorter life expectancy than those with AD because of other health conditions and other factors.

Professor O’Brien and his colleagues examined the anonymised electronic patient records of 500 patients at CPFT, around half with AD and half with DLB, over an eight year period.

The research took into account age, sex, physical comorbidity and types of medication prescribed.

The results, published in BMJ Open, showed that patients with DLB died on average around three years earlier than those with AD, and this difference was not explained by stage of disease at presentation, health conditions or other examined factors.

As with AD, men with DLB have a shorter life expectancy.

Dr Price, from the CPFT Older People’s Team based at CUH Addenbrooke’s, said further research was urgently needed.

She said: “This research is an important step in discovering more about Lewy body dementia, a disease which is often undiagnosed and unreported.

Further research is now needed to discover why this dementia subtype has such a relatively poor prognosis so that better treatment and care pathways can be developed.”


  1. ‘Mortality in dementia with Lewy bodies compared with Alzheimer’s dementia: a retrospective naturalistic cohort study’ by Price A, Farooq R, Yuan J, et al, BMJ Open 2017;7: doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017504
  1. The authors worked closely with a CPFT dementia patient and carer advisory group who advised on research priorities and agenda setting during the project.
  1. The CPFT Research Database was supported by the UK National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Cambridge Biomedical Research Unit in Dementia and the Biomedical Research Centre, and CPFT. Dr Annabel Price was funded by the NIHR CLAHRC EoE Fellowship programme.