Do older people take fewer risks?

As we age, the dopamine in our brain gradually declines, possibly explaining a reduction in our willingness to take risks for potential rewards. Dopamine is a neuromodulator that, amongst other things, has been associated with how attracted we are to potential rewards. We used our smartphone app ‘The Great Brain Experiment’ to explore how getting older affects our tendency to take risks in a sample of 25,189 people from around the world. We found that age is associated with a gradual decline in risk taking for potential rewards, but no change in risk taking when there are only potential losses.

Rutledge RB, Smittenaar P, Zeidman P, Brown HR, Adams RA, Lindenberger U, Dayan P, Dolan RJ (2016) Risk taking for potential rewards decreases across the lifespan. Current Biology 26, 1-6. [Abstract] [PDF] [Supplemental] [Commentary]