Playing it safe: Dispositional mindfulness partially accounts for age differences in health and safety risk-taking propensity

  • Natalie J. ShookEmail author
  • Rebecca K. Delaney
  • JoNell Strough
  • Jenna M. Wilson
  • Barış Sevi
  • Nathan Altman


Older adults consistently report a lower likelihood of engaging in health and safety risks (e.g., substance use, not wearing seatbelts) than younger adults. However, the mechanisms that explain this age difference are not clear. Greater dispositional mindfulness is associated with lower engagement in health risk behaviors, and older adults tend to score higher in dispositional mindfulness than younger adults. Thus, we tested whether older adults’ greater dispositional mindfulness helped to explain their lesser health and safety risk-taking propensity. Two community-dwelling samples of younger (25–36 years) and older (60+ years) adults completed self-report measures of dispositional mindfulness and health and safety risk-taking propensity. In Study 1, older adults reported greater dispositional mindfulness and a lower likelihood to engage in health and safety risk behaviors than younger adults. Greater dispositional mindfulness was associated with lesser health and safety risk-taking propensity. Importantly, older adults’ greater dispositional mindfulness partially accounted for their lesser health and safety risk-taking propensity. These findings were replicated in Study 2, and an alternative mechanism (i.e., perceived health) was ruled out. The results suggest that age-related decreases in health and safety risk behaviors may be statistically explained, in part, by dispositional mindfulness. The current research has implications for behavioral interventions intended to increase preventative health behaviors and decrease health risk behaviors.


Mindfulness Aging Health and safety risk Risk taking Mediation 



This research was made possible by support from the National Science Foundation (Award Number 1459021) and a West Virginia University Senate Research Grant. The funding organizations were not involved in designing the study, collecting and analyzing the data, or preparing the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Data Policy

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the studies.

Supplementary material

12144_2019_137_MOESM1_ESM.docx (14 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 14 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  2. 2.University of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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