Catching a yawn could be age-related17th March 2014
The contagious aspect of yawning is often linked to empathy or levels of tiredness; however, US-based scientists have discovered a different, stronger link to age.
The study, published in the journal Plos One, studied 328 participants who were shown a three-minute video of other people yawning. Each participant had to click a button every time they yawned.
Overall, 68% of the participants yawned. Of the under-25s this percentage was as high as 82%; between the ages of 25 and 49, 60% yawned; this was much lower in the over-50s, with 41% yawning.
Link to mental health
Reportedly, those with autism and schizophrenia are less likely to catch yawns. Therefore, a better understanding of the genes that might cause contagious yawning could reveal new pathways for treatment.
Robert R Provine, psychology professor at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, said the study was "unique" as it was the first time a link between ageing and yawning had been found.
Dr Elizabeth Cirulli, assistant professor of medicine at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, led the study. She said: 'although age was the most important predictor of contagious yawning, only 8% of the variation in whether or not a participant yawned was explained by their age.
The vast majority of variation in the contagious yawning response was just not explained."
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