Researchers at the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology looked into the way that stress affects decision making and found that following a stressful experience older people were much more averse to stress than young ones. The study compared young adults (18-33) with older ones (65-89) and used a driving game to measure their approach to risk. Participants were given points for every second they spent driving on a yellow light but lost points if the light turned red while they were driving meaning they had to take risks to score any points at all. In a control group which had not been exposed to stress the older adults had a higher score but after the participants had been exposed to stress (by putting their hands in a bucket of ice-cold water for three minutes) the older people became much more cautious. They were also jerkier drivers, braking and restarting almost three times as much as older drivers in the control group. The differences in the effects of stress were consistent even when the researchers accounted for gender, level of education, mood and health.
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