A recent study gives good reason to postpone your next trip to Vegas or Foxwoods Casino for another 45 years.
Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine have found that older adults who gamble recreationally are more likely to report good health. The study, published in the September 2004 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, also indicates that the correlation between gambling and well-being was not found in people 18 to 64.
“What we found was the opposite of what we expected to find,” said Dr. Rani Desai, associate professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine and lead author on the story. “What we found is that older folks over age 65 who gamble reported better health than older folks who do not gamble.”
Previous studies of the recreation of gambling had indicated that recreational gambling was associated with poor health measure, Desai said. She recalled that there was concern that the effects would be stronger in those 65 and older in a negative way.
“[The study found] a significant interaction between gambling and age for a measure of general health. The older adults, recreation gamblers, were more likely to acknowledge good to excellent health than the older adult non-gamblers,” said Dr. Marc N. Potenza, assistant professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine and director of the Problem Gambling Clinic.
The researchers, however, did not observe a similar correlation between good health and gambling among the 18 to 64-year-old sample group. Of those people in the younger sample who gamble, the study found higher rates of “alcohol use and abuse, drug use and abuse, depression, and bankruptcy and incarceration,” Desai said.
The study included survey data from a national representative sample of 2,417 adults and looked at a number of mental health and overall well-being measures. The study, which was phone-based, looked at a broad range of gambling, defining it as “any game-type activity where there are money stakes,” Desai said. The study looked at the occasional recreational gambler while excluding those “showing the signs that would normally raise a red flag of it being an addiction,” she added.
Additionally, the study cited that about two-thirds of adults gambled within the past year. However, according to the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus Web site, only one to three percent of adults is affected by pathological gambling. More studying is required to learn about how gambling habits can change over time, Potenza said, as the causes are not fully understood.
“We do not fully understand the relationship between recreational gambling and problem and pathological gamblers,” he said. “People might transition from one level of gambling to another. This study does not address that.”
Desai said they are still conducting a number of different studies relying on the same data set. In the future, she hopes to study rates between problem and pathological gambling and associated, diagnosable psychological disorders. She also said she is planning to study gambling’s effects on adolescents.
Gambling is no longer considered a mere recreational activity but an activity that can have positive and negative implications on health. What is important, Potenza said, is to “conceptualize gambling within a public health framework.”
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