According to Mara Mather of USC Davis School of Gerontology, older adults (65 to 89) tend to alter their behaviour more than the young adults (18 to 33) when stressed - especially when situational risks are involved.
Mather and her colleagues Marissa Gorlick, of the USC Emotion and Cognition Lab, and Nichole Kryla-Lighthall, a USC doctoral student, asked adults, both young and old, to play a driving game relating to real-life situations involving common risks.
The participants were divided into two groups, namely stressed and control groups, in which the former was asked to hold a hand in ice-cold water for three minutes.
The researchers found that older adults in the control group were better drivers than the young adults whereas stressed out older drivers were three times more likely to be jerkier drivers.
Mather said: ""The everyday commute can be stressful: someone cuts you off, you're late already. Are you more likely to try and take a risk than if you weren't stressed out?
"Our results indicate that stress changes older adults' strategies."
The study has been published in the journal Psychological Science.