“Financial symptoms” may be early indicator of dementia, study reveals

Missed financial payments may be an early indicator of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, suggests that people diagnosed with dementia are more likely to have missed credit card payments up to six years earlier.

As a result, people with dementia are also more likely to have poorer credit scores in the years before diagnosis.

To carry out the study, the authors compared the financial data and medical records of more than 81,000 adults. Approximately 54,062 were not diagnosed with dementia, while 27,302 received a dementia diagnosis between 1999 and 2014.

In total, the researchers found that the increased risk of payment delinquency with dementia accounted for 5.2 per cent of delinquencies among those six years prior to diagnosis. This increased to 17.9 per cent nine months after diagnosis.

Described as “financial symptoms”, the researchers believe that missing payments on routine bills could be used as an early predictor to improve the detection and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

“We don’t see the same pattern with other health conditions. Dementia was the only medical condition where we saw consistent financial symptoms, especially the long period of deteriorating outcomes before clinical recognition,” said lead author Lauren Hersch Nicholas.

“Currently there are no effective treatments to delay or reverse symptoms of dementia. However, earlier screening and detection, combined with information about the risk of irreversible financial events, like foreclosure and repossession, are important to protect the financial well-being of the patient and their families.”

According to the latest statistics, there are currently around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. The Alzheimer’s Society, however, suggests this will increase to 1.6 million by 2040.

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