Your grandfather probably walked twelve miles through the snow on the way to school, uphill both ways, and your father probably spend a good portion of his youth driving a Dodge Charger a hundred miles over the speed limit, from one adventure to another—at least, according to their self-aggrandizing lectures when they catch you playing xbox instead of chopping firewood. But were they truly more adventurous than you? The science says: maybe.
According to a meta-analysis of seventy-two articles on sensation-seeking published over the last thirty-four years, the number of young men seeking out risky activities like mountaineering and skydiving has dropped. Once upon a time, men were forty-eight per cent more likely than women to engage in thrill-seeking. These days, that number is a mere twenty-eight per cent. Just in case you’re thinking that more women must be mountain climbing and shark taming, women’s absolute scores have remained flat, men’s have fallen.
So, what’s happening? Are men of thirty-five years ago really bolder, badder, more ready to take on the world in a Daniel Craig be-tuxedoed blaze of glory? The study doesn’t say, but it’s worth knowing that a lot of things probably factor in man’s diminished sense of adventure:
- Young men today are broke. Skydiving and things like it cost lots of money.
- Things that young men of thirty-five years ago called fun, like street racing and sex in public, come with police records nowadays.
- Even if you aren’t doing anything illegal, personal liability lawsuits have increased.
- The study authors have noted that some of the ways of measuring risk-seeking thirty-five years ago and today may be different, so their comparisons may be a problem.
- There’s a lot less lead in consumer products, leading us to be less stupid.
- Video-gaming has become a major pastime, which provokes the question: why would you try driving a car off a ramp in real life when you can just do that in a video game?
So, the next time your dad is talking about how much more shenanigans he and his buddies got up to than you, know two things: first of all, statistically, he’s probably right, but secondly, you get to choose his nursing home, and maybe that’s a good outlet for your latent adventurousness.