Age and environmental sustainability:
A meta-analysis

Wiernik, B. M., Ones, D. S., & Dilchert, S.
Journal of Managerial Psychology, 28(7/8), 826–856.

Purpose: Research has shown that individuals of different ages hold different environmental attitudes and perform environmental behaviors of different kinds and to varying degrees. The strength and direction of age-effects observed across studies has been inconsistent, however. This study examined the relationship between age and a variety of environmental sustainability-related psychological variables using meta-analytic techniques.

Methodology: Relationships between age and environmental concern, environmental values, attitudes toward environmental behaviors, environmental awareness, environmental knowledge, environmental motives, environmental intentions, and pro-environmental behaviors were examined. Data from relevant studies between 1970 and 2010 were meta-analyzed to determine the magnitudes of relationships between age and environmental variables, and to investigate whether effects generalize across studies.

Findings: Most relationships were negligibly small. Small but generalizable relationships indicated that older individuals appear to be more likely to engage with nature, avoid environmental harm, and conserve raw materials and natural resources.

Value: Stereotypes about age-differences in environmental sustainability are commonly held in organizations. If work and organizational psychologists are to encourage and help individuals to be more environmentally responsible at work, understanding how age affects these efforts is imperative. By meta-analytically estimating age-differences in environmental sustainability variables, the present study helps to dispel erroneous stereotypes and guide organizations to implement effective environmental interventions.