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Dark Humour, A Warning Sign of Dementia?


Dark Humour, A Warning Sign of Dementia?

We all have different senses of humour; some have witty or jovial humour, whereas others have a darker one.  Scientists now believe that a change in a sense of humour, particularly when it has become darker; may be an indication of the onset of dementia. The University College London conducted a study involving 48 dementia patients.  The study involved their family and friends who knew the sufferer 15 years before their disease.  Most of them were aware of a difference to the patients’ humour.  The scientists were mainly interested in patients who suffer from frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. The research reported that the patients laughed at very inappropriate times, e.g. when someone hurt themselves, or they were watching the news about tragic events etc.  Some patients laughed most of the time and to a situation that a healthy person wouldn’t find amusing.  The findings also suggested that dementia patients prefer slapstick instead of sarcastic humour.

Dr. Camilla Clark from The University College London said: “These were marked changes – completely inappropriate humour well beyond the realms of even distasteful humour. For example, one man laughed when his wife badly scalded herself.”

Dr. Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer’s Research UK said “while memory loss is often the first thing that springs to mind when we hear the word dementia, this study highlights the importance of looking at the myriad different symptoms that impact on daily life and relationships.” “A deeper understanding of the full range of dementia symptoms will increase our ability to make a timely and accurate diagnose.”

The study was funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council (MRC) and NIHR Queen Square Dementia Biomedical Research Unit. The results were published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on Tuesday 10th November 2015.

Dementia is an illness which causes harm to the person’s brain.  The damage gradually occurs over time and will have an impact on the person’s memory, behaviour and how they cope with their daily life.

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. Other types of dementia include Vascular dementia, Lewybodies dementia and Frontotemporal dementia.

Symptoms of dementia

  • Memory loss, particularly for recent events
  • Problems with language, difficulty finding the right word
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Becoming confused in familiar surroundings or situations
  • Difficulty in following conversations, TV programmes or reading
  • Difficulty managing money and everyday tasks
  • Difficulty solving problems or doing puzzles
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and pastimes
  • Repeating a question or story several times without realising


The Alzheimer Society of Ireland

National Office

Temple Road


Co Dublin


Ph:      01 207 3800

Fax:     01 210 3772

Help line: 1 800 341 341


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