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Fewer Older People on the Street May Lead Youth to Riskier Lives

Last Updated: September 21, 2012.

There is a difference in the age profile of people observed on the streets in affluent and deprived neighborhoods, which is not always reflective of the actual age profile of the community and may influence life-history strategies, according to a study published in the September issue of Human Nature.

FRIDAY, Sept. 21 (HealthDay News) -- There is a difference in the age profile of people observed on the streets in affluent and deprived neighborhoods, which is not always reflective of the actual age profile of the community and may influence life-history strategies, according to a study published in the September issue of Human Nature.

Noting that the psychological mechanisms regulating life-history strategies may be sensitive to the age profile of people encountered during everyday activities, Daniel Nettle, Ph.D., from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues examined whether this age profile varies between environments with different socioeconomic composition. An observational study was conducted comparing the estimated age distribution of people using the streets in two matched neighborhoods, one of which was affluent and the other socioeconomically deprived. Data from the U.K. census were used to compare the observed age profile with the actual age profile in the community.

The researchers found that, in the deprived area versus the affluent area, people over 60 years of age were seen less often in the street, while young adults were seen more often. These differences did not reflect distinct age profiles of the residents of the area, but rather differences in which residents used the streets.

"The way people use the streets varies with age in different ways in the affluent and the deprived neighborhoods," the authors write. "We argue that chronic exposure to a world where there are many visible young adults and few visible old ones may activate psychological mechanisms that produce fast life-history strategies."

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