Age differences in COVID-19 risk-taking, and the relationship with risk attitude and numerical ability

Kelly Wolfe*, Miroslav Sirota, Alasdair Clarke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aimed to investigate age differences in risk-taking concerning the coronavirus pandemic, while disentangling the contribution of risk attitude, objective risk and numeracy. We tested (i) whether older and younger adults differed in taking coronavirus-related health risks, (ii) whether there are age differences in coronavirus risk, risk attitude and numerical ability and (iii) whether these age differences in coronavirus risk, attitude and numerical ability are related to coronavirus risk-taking. The study was observational, with measures presented to all participants in random order. A sample of 469 participants reported their coronavirus-related risk-taking behaviour, objective risk, risk attitude towards health and safety risks, numerical ability and risk perception. Our findings show that age was significantly related to coronavirus risk-taking, with younger adults taking more risk, and that this was partially mediated by higher numeracy, but not objective risk or risk attitude. Exploratory analyses suggest that risk perception for self and others partially mediated age differences in coronavirus risk-taking. The findings of this study may better our understanding of why age groups differ in their adoption of protective behaviours during a pandemic and contribute to the debate whether age differences in risk-taking occur due to decline in abilities or changes in risk attitude.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sep 2021


  • older adults
  • COVID-19
  • risk-taking
  • risk attitude
  • risk preferences
  • numeracy
  • risk perception
  • coronavirus


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