Many teens drive fast, have unprotect sex and abuse alcohol and drugs because they love how living dangerously makes them feel, suggests new study findings from the University College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and published in the journal Cognitive Development.

For the study, researchers had 86 men, ages 9 to 35, play a computer gambling game with two types of selection options: risky and safe. Scientists found that teen players chose the risky options more often than participants in other age groups.

“The reason that teenagers take risks is not a problem with foreseeing the consequences, said Stephanie Burnett, a neuroscientist at the institute and the study’s lead author. “It was more because they chose to take those risks.”

The biggest teen thrill-seekers were 14-year-old boys, researchers said.

According to UCL’s press material, scientists found that young people’s risk-taking behavior manifested as soon as they became adolescents. Researchers noticed that teens got a huge rush when they emerged unscathed from perilous situations, which may explain why they take heftier risks.

Why is this research key?

“Understanding why adolescents take such risks is important for public health interventions and for families,” said Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, another institute neuroscientist and a study coauthor.

Teens’ penchant for risk-taking, Blakemore said, “contributes to the so-called ‘health paradox’ of adolescence, whereby a peak in lifetime physical health is paradoxically accompanied by high mortality and morbidity.”

Click here to read about how teens’ risk-taking behaviors affect the health care system.