Potential cases of presenile dementia of the Alzheimer type (PDAT) in the Northern Health Region (estimated population aged 45–64, 655800) were ascertained for the years 1979–86 from in-patient ICD-9 codes and other sources. An algorithm was applied to the casenote information to distinguish between Alzheimer-type and other forms of dementia. A search of the NHS central register was made to establish date and place of death. Estimates were made for patients with missing case records. The point prevalence rate for PDAT was estimated as 34·6 per 100000 with an annual incidence of 7·2 per 100000 in the 45–64 age range. These rates are compared with those reported in other studies. Five-year survival following diagnosis for incident cases of PDAT was 64% with a longevity quotient (LQ), the percentage of expected time actually survived, of 69%. There was no evidence of a more malignant course in PDAT when compared with survival in older patients with dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) in other studies. Sixty-six per cent of deaths occurred in hospital, 19% at home and 15% in residential homes.