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News Release
FINRA Foundation

Angelita Williams, (202) 728-8988

New Research: Lonely Older Adults with Low Cognition at Greater Risk for Poor Financial And Healthcare Decision Making

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The harmful consequences of Americans’ prolonged social isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic may be even greater for lonely older adults with low cognition. These individuals are at high risk for poor financial and healthcare decision making, according to new research from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

The study, “The Relation of Loneliness and Cognition With Financial and Healthcare Decision Making in Older Persons,” used data from more than 1,000 older adults participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project. Among other measures, participants completed a 12-item test mimicking the types of financial and healthcare decisions that older adults face in everyday life. Adults who had difficulty with routine cognitive functions – such as remembering, paying attention, and problem solving – tended to score lower on decision making, and loneliness further worsened decision making among individuals with low cognition. 

“While there is considerable research on the detrimental effects of cognitive decline on decision making, these novel findings show that loneliness also contributes to poor decision making among cognitively vulnerable older adults,” said Gerri Walsh, President of the FINRA Foundation. “Lonely and cognitively vulnerable older adults may have difficulty with complex decisions, such as choosing retirement funds and prescription drug benefit plans and other life-altering decisions we face as we age.

“Although more research is needed to better understand the relationship between loneliness and brain health, we do know that loneliness is modifiable and may be a critical target for future interventions designed to strengthen decision making in old age,” Walsh added.

Other key findings from the study include:

  • Although loneliness was detrimental to decision making among those older adults with low cognition, loneliness was not associated with decision making among older adults in general.
  • Older age, more depressive symptoms, more medical conditions, lower education, lower income, and fewer social contacts were also associated with poorer decision making.
  • On average, women tended to score lower on decision making compared with men.

If you are a senior investor with questions or concerns about your brokerage account statements or your investments, FINRA offers the Securities Helpline for Seniors. Call toll-free at 844-57-HELPS (844-574-3577) Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Eastern Time.

About the FINRA Investor Education Foundation
The FINRA Investor Education Foundation supports innovative research and educational projects that give underserved Americans the knowledge, skills and tools to make sound financial decisions throughout life. For more information about FINRA Foundation initiatives, visit

FINRA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to investor protection and market integrity. It regulates one critical part of the securities industry—brokerage firms doing business with the public in the United States. FINRA, overseen by the SEC, writes rules, examines for and enforces compliance with FINRA rules and federal securities laws, registers broker-dealer personnel and offers them education and training, and informs the investing public. In addition, FINRA provides surveillance and other regulatory services for equities and options markets, as well as trade reporting and other industry utilities. FINRA also administers a dispute resolution forum for investors and brokerage firms and their registered employees. For more information, visit