Risk-taking differences across the adult life span: A question of age and domain

Jonathan J. Rolison, Yaniv Hanoch, Stacey Wood, Pi-Ju Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Citations (Scopus)


Older adults face important risky decisions about their health, their financial future, and their social environment. We examine age differences in risk-taking behaviors in multiple risk domains across the adult life span.

A cross-sectional study was conducted in which 528 participants from 18 to 93 years of age completed the Domain-Specific Risk-Taking (DOSPERT) scale, a survey measuring risk taking in 5 different domains.

Our findings reveal that risk-taking tendencies in the financial domain reduce steeply in older age (at least for men). Risk taking in the social domain instead increases slightly from young to middle age, before reducing sharply in later life, whereas recreational risk taking reduces more steeply from young to middle age than in later life. Ethical and health risk taking reduce relatively smoothly with age. Our findings also reveal gender differences in risk taking with age. Financial risk taking reduced steeply in later life for men but not for women, and risk taking in the social domain reduced more sharply for women than for men.

We discuss possible underlying causes of the domain-specific nature of risk taking and age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)870-880
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number6
Early online date22 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Domain-specific risk taking
  • Gender differences
  • Older adults
  • Risk taking


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