The risks that mutual fund investors are willing to accept has remained relatively steady in the last three years after taking a nose dive after the 2008 market debacle, according to the Investment Company Institute.

When the market went into a tailspin three years ago, 36% of mutual fund shareholders said in a May 2008 they'd be willing to take substantial, or above-average risks with their money. In the following three years, that number has hovered around 30%, including a reading of 29% in May 2011.

"Since the financial crisis, investors have remained cautious but steady, with (a near) majority indicating they have confidence that mutual funds can help them meet their investment goals," says Sarah Holden, ICI senior director of retirement and investor research.

Of the 4,216 households surveyed, 44% said they own mutual funds.

The age group with the highest percentage willing to tolerate risk is 35 to 49 years old. Retirement age and older have the lowest risk tolerance, although that group has rebounded the most. In 2008, 14% of those 65 and older said they'd tolerate above average or substantial risk. That number has risen to 18% in 2011.

Mutual fund companies' favorability rating moves with the stock market performance, according to the study. Mutual funds' favorability among shareholders edged up in 2011 as the stock market trended upward, with favorability rising to 69% from 64% in 2009.