Why Older Adults Make More Immediate Treatment Decisions About Cancer Than Younger Adults

Bonnie J.F. Meyer, Andrew P. Talbot, Carlee Ranalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Literature relevant to medical decision making was reviewed, and a model was outlined for testing. Two studies examined whether older adults make more immediate decisions than younger adults about treatments for prostate or breast cancer in authentic scenarios. Findings clearly showed that older adults were more likely to make immediate decisions than younger adults. The research is important because it not only demonstrates the consistency of this age-related effect across disease domains, gender, ethnic groups, and prevalent education levels but begins to investigate a model to explain the effect. Major reasons for the effect focus on treatment knowledge, interest and engagement, and cognitive resources. Treatment knowledge, general cancer knowledge, interest, and cognitive resources relate to different ways of processing treatment information and preferences for immediate versus delayed decision making. Adults with high knowledge of treatments on a reliable test tended to make immediate treatment decisions, which supports the knowledge explanation. Adults with more cognitive resources and more interest tended to delay their treatment decisions. Little support was found for a cohort explanation for the relationship between age and preference for immediate medical decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-524
Number of pages20
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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