Systematic review of screening for dementia

We are undertaking 3 complementary systematic reviews of the evidence to answer the following key questions regarding screening for dementia:
  •  What tools are available to screen people for dementia, and how good are they?
  • How do patients, carers and doctors feel about screening?
  • What would be the benefits and costs of a screening programme for dementia?

For over a decade researchers have sought ways to improve the early detection of dementia. Yet still a large proportion of patients who meet the criteria for dementia do not receive a formal diagnosis or receive it too late to be clinically useful. One possible approach to improving detection of dementia could be to screen older people in the population to identify the disease sooner and allow earlier treatment and support.

Many researchers are dubious about the benefits this would bring. Routine screening for dementia is not currently considered to be clinically or cost effective.  However, the pressure for faster diagnosis and for population screening may increase as the burden of dementia increases and as new therapies emerge. We do not currently have a clear view of the advantages and drawbacks of this approach.

This project will provide reliable evidence and practical information for policy makers, health professionals and the public on the validity of available tools, and the acceptability, cost and benefits of dementia screening. It will also help further our understanding of how to improve early detection of dementia in the community.


This project is a collaboration between the Public Health and Old Age themes of the CLAHRC CP. It is funded by the BUPA Foundation in association with the Alzheimer’s Society. Two members of the Alzheimer’s Society are part of the management committee and contribute a public perspective to the project.

For more information contact: Dr Louise Lafortune, Cambridge Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, 


Download the Research update on Screening of dementia: a systematic review of the evidence.

Related publication: The pros and cons of early diagnosis in dementia. Fox, C; Lafortune, L; Boustani, M; Brayne, C. British Journal of General Practice, Volume 63, Number 612, July 2013 , pp. e510-e512(3)