Death and the time of your life: Experiences of close bereavement are associated with steeper financial future discounting and earlier reproduction

Gillian V. Pepper, Daniel Nettle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Evolutionarily-based theories predict that people should adopt a faster life history strategy when their mortality risk is high. However, this raises the question of what cues evolved psychological mechanisms rely on when forming their estimates of personal mortality risk. In a sample of 600 North Americans, we examined associations between ideal or actual reproductive timing and two possible cues to mortality risk: 1) the total number of people a person knew who had died (death exposure); and 2) the number of those people to whom they felt close (bereavement). We also took a measure of financial future discounting, in order to establish whether experiences of death or bereavement are associated with a more general shortening of time horizons. We found that a greater number of bereavements were robustly associated with a lower ideal age at first birth, or an increased hazard of an actual first birth at any given age and with steeper future discounting. We did not find significant associations between any of these outcomes and overall death exposure. This suggests that the deaths of people with whom one is close may be a more salient cue for the calibration of reproductive and financial time horizons than the deaths of more distant acquaintances. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-439
Number of pages7
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Volume34
Issue number6
Early online date14 Sep 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

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