Traumatic brain injuries can cause a significant decline in a person’s ability to make financial decisions in short term and the long run, according to new research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The findings, published in Research Psychology, suggest brain injuries may affect higher-learning functions in the brain and highlight the need for people who suffer them to have assistance in managing their financial affairs.
“It is likely that after moderate to severe [injuries], most survivors will not be able to manage any aspect of their financial affairs,” said Daniel C. Marson, lead researcher and a professor in the University of Alabama’s Department of Neurology. “There will be an immediate need for education and identification of responsible parties to manage financial affairs and protect [their] economic resources and emotional well-being.”
To reach their conclusions, researchers tested 24 people with moderate to severe brain injuries -- and 20 other healthy people -- using a standardized measure of their ability to perform 18 financial tasks. They included such tasks as understanding a bank statement, balancing a checkbook, paying bills and counting coins and currency.
The team evaluated the patients at the time of their hospitalization following the injury and then again six months later.
“At the time of hospitalization, participants with [injuries] performed significantly below the [other] group on the majority of financial variables tested,” said Laura Dreer, one of the researchers. “After six months, those with [injuries] demonstrated improvement on both simple and complex financial skills, but continued to perform below the [those without injuries] on complex financial skills and on both overall scores.”