Monthly Archives: December 2014

Men are Risky, Study Confirms

Men are Risky, Study Confirms

The British Medical Journal(BMJ) has released a historical study that shows men are far more likely to engage in senseless high risk behaviors than women(1). They start out looking at the cause of past admissions to emergency rooms for the males. “Males are more likely to be admitted to an emergency department after accidental injuries, more likely to be admitted with a sporting injury, and more likely to be in a road traffic collision with a higher mortality rate.” These historical figures place male risk taking much higher than the females, suggesting the trait is inherited.

The authors discuss the possibility that these behaviors might be determined by social or cultural differences. But, since they noted that high risk behaviors of males are reported at an early age, they conclude that this may be genetic in origin. They site many studies to confirm this. However, they don’t discuss the differences within the males. I think that age and socioeconomic status might have some influence since poverty may be correlated with higher risk taking.

Their definition of idiotic risks are really senseless risks, “…where the apparent payoff is negligible or non-existent, and the outcome is often extremely negative and often final”. They also bring up something called “male idiot theory” based on the “the observation that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things “. They also note that alcohol consumption tends to exasperate this tendency in men.

Going to war certainly seems like an acceptable high risk endeavor with dire consequences. This is especially appealing to young men. One of the main reasons for this is young men are establishing their masculine identity or manhood. This group has an identity of toughness or strength rather than one of intelligence and caring. So, these other traits might help distinguish which group of men are more likely to take on higher risks.

In their discussion, the authors are at a loss to explain this difference between men and women. Besides forming a cultural masculine identity, I personally think the person is looking for purpose and meaning in their life.  As men age, the risky behavior tends to wane, but still remains. Going into retirement, some men find great boredom and re-emerge as risk takers with their money. This is another point in life where your purposes is undefined. Some men I know risk their life savings in an attempt to feel more engaged. As an ex-stockbroker, I’ve seen retired men lose over a million dollars in the market and return to prior employment to survive.

In conclusion, dangerous risk taking appears to peak as a teenager, but is often seen in the 20s as well. This is correlated with brain development that lessens over time. However, some people have greater risky traits throughout life. One solution is to become deeply engaged and busy with your life goals.  In retirement, if you’ve been intensely involved in a prior work environment, you need to carry this intensity into your next phase.  Without this involvement, boredom and anxiety occur leading to damaging risky behaviors to alleviate it. Everyone needs an engaging future plan to look forward to–be sure you have one.

L. Johnson of www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)BMJ 2014;349:g7094 Retrieved from: http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g7094 on 12-13-14.