Teenage kicks -- why adolescents will always take the biggest risks
Teenagers take more risks than children and adults because they enjoy the thrill, research suggested today.
The findings came in a computer gambling game study where participants had to choose between risky and safe options.
Fourteen-year-olds were around 20pc more likely to take risks than the oldest category of 25- to 35-year-olds, the study found.
Even though they were good at weighing up the pros and cons of their decisions, adolescents displayed a more positive emotional response to winning in a "lucky escape" situation, according to scientists based at University College London.
The researchers studied 86 boys and men aged between nine and 35 as they made decisions in an attempt to win points in the computer game. After each game, they measured the participants' emotional responses by recording how satisfied or dissatisfied they were.
According to the scientists, levels of enjoyment as a result of winning in a "lucky escape" increased with the onset of teenage years.
Although they said further studies were needed -- with bigger samples and including girls -- to explore what happens in real life, the authors suggested the results from the laboratory could help explain why teenagers take risks such as using drugs or having unprotected sex.
Lead author Stephanie Burnett said: "The reason teenagers take risks is not a problem with foreseeing the consequences. It's because they chose to take risks."
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, who co-authored the research, said: "The onset of adolescence marks an explosion in 'risky' activities -- from dangerous driving, unsafe sex and experiment-ation with alcohol, to poor dietary habits and physical inactivity."
-- Paula Fentiman