Reckless Youth

A common feeling of insecurity is down to the acceleration of technological advances. It seems such a short time ago that your new computer was going to be at the cutting edge for three years and now it’s just twelve months, if you’re lucky and don’t come across the tech reviews. But this feeling is just for us old fogies who are 30-years plus in age.

Of course, we humans are growing up more quickly. Our obsolescence, thank goodness, is still hotly debated. Fortunately the rate of change is much slower than with technology. The decrease in the age at which girls are sexually mature has been spoken about many times, but little attention has been applied to boys. Goldstein from the Max Planck in Rostock has studied the records of the past 200 years (1).

The fascinating part of this study is that Goldstein used the period of social sexual maturity as the marker. That is the age of the peak in the accident hump that you find when you plot mortality rate with age. The mortality curve is very interesting. For both sexes, the mortality rate falls rapidly with age to a minimum and then climbs slowly and steadily as old age is occurring. But with boys there is an increase giving a hump in the curve just past the minimum which lasts just a few years.

This accident hump is when our testosterone has done its job, we start to think we’re invincible and we indulge in reckless behaviors such as trying extreme sports, leading gangs or serial dating. Fortunately it only lasts for six or seven years.

Just so that we don’t think we’re unique with this behavior, non-human primate males also have this accident hump as they try out their strength and good looks amongst the their group and get into serious fights.

Coming back to us humans, we see that peak of our male accident hump has dropped from almost 23-years old to a few months under 18-years old now. The decrease in age is linear which means we are hitting our peak in reckless behavior one week earlier each year!

Let’s keep in mind that the end of our accident hump is the border of our personal age of reason and is close to the start of our fogeyism. Hence the graduation to fogeyship must also occur a week sooner each year.


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