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Wednesday, September 19

Risky behavior. Are we all at risk?

Does it really end by the time a person is 25? Yes and No.

You keep hearing about studies that conclude that teenagers and those in their early 20's are big risk takers, more prone to car accidents and just pretty darned reckless from the onset of puberty until about 25 years old when the brain finally matures. In fact, when their friends are watching, studies show that young people tend to take even more risks. So making military choices, career choices and marriage choices before one is 24-25 years old doesn't involve a mature decision making brain scientifically speaking. And it's not anyone's fault. It's nature. Previously it was thought that the risky behavior was for teenagers but studies show that those in their early 20's are included, but society at large doesn't give a pass to those in their 20's. See Tightrope 20s: Risky behavior doesn't end with teen years
And what will society say about risky middle agers?

In an opinion piece at the NYTimes, Mike Males in This is your (father's) brain on drugs
has something for the experts to ponder. Why do pundits and commentators rush to denigrate young people as brainless (and it makes ME wonder why military recruiters go after this group) when 35-54 year old Americans are suffering ballooning crises. The middle aged, who should know better, are practicing reckless behavior more and more.

It seems to be "baby boomer risk taking" more than adolescent risk taking suggests the author, when you look at statistics for 25-54 year olds today:
  • •Deaths from illicit drugs up 550 percent per capita since 1975.
  • •Middle agers 30% more at risk for fatal accidents and suicide than those aged 15-19.
  • •A 200 percent leap per capita in major index felonies since 1975 (violent crimes, drinking, druges)
  • •Imprisoned middle agers up 600% since 1977
  • •21 million binge drinkers (those downing five or more drinks on one occasion in the previous month), double the number among teenagers and college students combined
  • •370,000 people treated in hospital emergency rooms for abusing illegal drugs in 2005, with overdose rates for heroin, cocaine, pharmaceuticals and drugs mixed with alcohol far higher than among teenagers.
  • •More than half of all new H.I.V./AIDS diagnoses in 2005 were given to middle-aged Americans, up from less than one-third a decade ago.
All are interesting things to ponder and leaves open the question about why many middle agers act like teenagers these days. Was it the Vietnam war years? The Reagan years reigniting fascism? The rich getting too rich? Too many fundies in the news? Just the fact that so many grown ups are going nowhere because of economics? What do you think?

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