Correlates of Healthcare and Financial Decision Making Among Older Adults Without Dementia

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Objective: Healthcare and financial decision making among older persons has been previously associated with cognition, health and financial literacy, and risk aversion; however, the manner by which these resources support decision making remains unclear, as past studies have not systematically investigated the pathways linking these resources with decision making. In the current study, we use path analysis to examine the direct and indirect pathways linking age, education, cognition, literacy, and risk aversion with decision making. We also decomposed literacy into its subcomponents, conceptual knowledge and numeracy, in order to examine their associations with decision making. Method: Participants were 937 community-based older adults without dementia from the Rush Memory and Aging Project who completed a battery of cognitive tests and assessments of healthcare and financial decision making, health and financial literacy, and risk aversion. Results: Age and education exerted effects on decision making, but nearly two thirds of their effects were indirect, working mostly through cognition and literacy. Cognition exerted a strong direct effect on decision making and a robust indirect effect working primarily through literacy. Literacy also exerted a powerful direct effect on decision making, as did its subcomponents, conceptual knowledge and numeracy. The direct effect of risk aversion was comparatively weak. Conclusions: In addition to cognition, health and financial literacy emerged as independent and primary correlates of healthcare and financial decision making. These findings suggest specific actions that might be taken to optimize healthcare and financial decision making and, by extension, improve health and well-being in advanced age.

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