Background: Although old people may seem less impulsive than adults, numerous experimental studies report that they have inhibitory deficits. Bearing in mind that there is a relationship between inhibition processes and impulsivity, age-related inhibition deficits suggest that older people could be more impulsive than adults.
Methods: The aim of the current study was to compare the functional and dysfunctional impulsivity scores obtained in a sample of elderly people (65 years old and above) with those obtained in previous studies on samples of adolescents and adults. Dickman's Impulsivity Inventory was administered to 190 individuals aged between 65 and 94 years without dementia or cognitive impairment.
Results: Results indicated that the elderly sample showed higher dysfunctional impulsivity levels than the adult samples, which is consistent with the inhibition deficits mentioned above. There were no significant differences in functional impulsivity. Furthermore, old women had higher scores than old men on dysfunctional impulsivity.
Conclusions: This study provides evidence of age-related changes in dysfunctional impulsivity. Functional impulsivity did not show the same pattern as dysfunctional impulsivity, being quite stable across the age span. it seems, then, that impulsivity cannot be considered to decrease with age and dysfunctional impulsivity may even increase.