Credit Scores Can Also Be an Early Warning Sign of Cognitive Decline, Research Finds

By Trisha Andrada

Jul 10, 2024 03:30 AM EDT

Researchers at Georgetown University and the New York Federal Reserve found in their latest study that credit scores, which measure a person's capacity to pay back loans, may also serve as an early indicator of cognitive deterioration. 

Credit Cards
Alain Filiz shows off some of his credit cards as he pays for items at Lorenzo's Italian Market on May 20, 2009 in Miami, Florida. (Photo : Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Credit Scores Decline 5 Years Before Dementia Diagnosis

Based on an analysis of Medicare data and a nationally representative sample of credit reports covering over 2.4 million individuals from 2000 to 2017, researchers discovered that mortgage delinquencies begin to rise three years before a dementia diagnosis and that a person's credit score begins to weaken five years before the diagnosis.

According to CBS News, the magnitude of the shift in delinquency is significant for those who fall behind on payments in the early stage of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders (ADRD), but this is not the case for everyone.

The researchers discovered that average delinquent credit card balances are 11% higher, and typical mortgage amounts are 50% higher one year before diagnosis. The estimated number of debt delinquencies due to undiagnosed ADRD during the next decade is 600,000.

This research's results are consistent with those of a 2020 study that indicated Medicare recipients with a clinical diagnosis of dementia were more likely to have late or missed payments starting as early as six years before their diagnosis.

The study's goal is to create an algorithm that can predict who will have Alzheimer's disease that could assist medical professionals in deciding whether to provide further screenings for their patients.  

Read Next: Average Savings by Generation in 2023: Who Saved the Most Among Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers?

What Experts Have to Say

According to Carole Roan Gresenz, a professor at Georgetown University's School of Health and McCourt School of Public Policy, these kinds of financial troubles may occur long before a diagnosis is made.

She said people should consider initiating talks to avoid these financial problems in the first place. Monica Moreno, senior director of care and support at the Alzheimer's Association, noted that these problems might include being vulnerable to financial abuse, fraud, or scams. 

She pointed out that dementia patients are financially vulnerable. Even though Alzheimer's and other cognitive problems have limited treatments, understanding these early signs may help patients and their families prepare financially.  

Read More: UK Card Spending Drops for First Time Since 2021, Barclays Says

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