Financial altruism shows possible link to cognitive profile of early Alzheimer's disease


Elderly populations are more be inclined to use their money for charitable purposes and more likely to encounter financial abuse. Yet little is known about the link between charity donation behaviours and cognitive decline in older adults. In this context, researchers have sought to investigate the link between one’s willingness to give away money and signs of early Alzheimer’s disease (AD), in a study published on 13 June 2022, in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease. 67 older adults who did not have dementia or cognitive impairment, with an average age of 69, were put into pairs with an anonymous person. They were given the sum of 10 dollars which they were asked to allocated as they wished (in incremental sums of 1 dollar), between the anonymous person and themselves. The researchers also proceeded to assess individuals’ cognitive status.

The participants underwent neuropsychological tests that are commonly used to detect the presence of early AD. The study findings revealed that individuals who were willing to bestow more money to the anonymous person exhibited significantly lower scores on the early Alzheimer’s-sensitive cognitive measures. According to the authors, these results could indicate that changes in altruistic behaviour could be a sign of early AD. They also note that more research is needed to understand the link between altruism and cognition, and that advances in this field could help with earlier detection of AD and recognising unhealthy patterns of altruistic behaviours. Furthermore, they say this could also forge a better understanding of how to best protect older adults and people with cognitive decline from financial exploitation, such as online scams.