Serial assessments of cognition, mood, and disability were carried out at nine month intervals over a 54 month period on a cohort of 87 patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) and a matched cohort of 50 control subjects. Dementia was diagnosed from data by rigorously applying DSM-III-R criteria. Initially, 6% (5/87) PD patients were demented, compared with none of the 50 control subjects. A further 10 PD patients met the dementia criteria during the follow up period; this was equivalent, with survival analysis, to a cumulative incidence of 19%. With the number of person years of observation as the denominator, the incidence was 47.6/1000 person years of observation. None of the control subjects fulfilled dementia criteria during the follow up period. The patients with PD who became demented during follow up were older at onset of Parkinson's disease than patients who did not become demented, had a longer duration of Parkinson's disease, and were older at inclusion to the study.