Despite the risks, an estimated 250,000 people go skydiving in the UK every year. Common sense suggests they're doing it for the buzz; an adrenaline shot in a sterile, safety-obsessed world. But what about those people for whom it becomes a regular past-time - does the kick ever fade?
Ian Price and Claire Bundesen (University of New England, Australia) asked 105 skydivers with varying experience to rate how much they were feeling 33 emotional states before and after completing a jump. The participants also completed the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, and a tailor-made measure of how 'addicted' they were to skydiving.
The principal emotions felt by the skydivers were anxiety before a jump followed by happiness afterwards. This contrast was most striking for novices and was far less pronounced for experienced divers (those who'd made more than 500 jumps). "More experienced skydivers have minimised anxiety and maximised the positive emotions of fun, happiness and pleasure" Price and Bundesen said. "(they) will increase access to
skydiving stimulation in order to achieve something like the original experience...more mid-air manoeuvres, night jumps, freefall..."
The experienced jumpers also tended to score low on neuroticism. "People high in neuroticism may find the concerns raised by skydiving too much to bear and hence select themselves out of continued involvement" Price and Bundesen said.
Skydivers who reported signs of being addicted to jumping, tended to be the least anxious before a jump. Having one's calmness recognised by others in the skydiving community "when others are feeling life-endangering fear and panic might be a major reinforcing factor", the authors concluded.
Price, I.R. & Bundesen, C. (2005). Emotional changes in skydivers in relation to experience. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 1203-1211.