Best agers generally report being less likely to take health and safety risks (e.g., drug use, not wearing seat belts) than younger adults. The mechanisms explaining this age difference have been unclear.
Higher dispositional mindfulness is associated with lower engagement in health risk behaviors, and older adults tend to have higher dispositional mindfulness scores than younger adults. Therefore, Shook and colleagues (2019) wondered whether the high levels of mindfulness among best agers help explain their lower levels of health and safety risk-taking.
Two community-dwelling samples of younger (25-36 years) and older (60+ years) adults completed self-report questionnaires on mindfulness and risk-taking related to health and safety. In the first study, Best Agers reported higher mindfulness and lower likelihood of engaging in health and safety risk behaviors than younger adults.
Higher mindfulness was associated with a lower propensity to engage in health and safety risk-taking behaviors. Importantly, higher mindfulness among best agers was partly responsible for their lower health and safety risk-taking.
These results were replicated in the second study, and an alternative mechanism (i.e., perceived health) was excluded. The results suggest that age-related decreases in health and safety risk-taking behaviors may be statistically explained in part by mindfulness. The current research findings have implications for behavioral interventions aimed at promoting preventive health behaviors and reducing health risk behaviors.