March 31, 2020

Is gambling bad for your health

This is a report I just wrote for school. I haven’t turned it in yet, but I’m gonna post it on here for the hell of it.

Besides, I haven’t really posted much lately. SO here goes:

Many people believe that gambling and health have a negative correlation; that is to say the more one gambles, the more health problems she can expect to encounter. It seems like the newspapers are always full of stories about down on their luck gamblers committing suicide, depressed gamblers, etc. The list goes on and on. In fact, studies have proven that gambling leads to poor health among teens and young adults. As the baby boom generation gets older, psychologists are becoming interested in studying the health correlates of gambling among adults ages 65 and over. Are the typical stereotypes true? Do older age gamblers experience negative health measures?

In September the American Journal of Psychiatry published an article titled: Health Correlates of Recreational Gambling in Older Adults. Shortly after ABCNews.com ran an article titled: Survey Surprise: Recreational Gambling Linked to Good Health in Older Americans. Just reading the title of the article leads one to assume that older adults who gamble would be in better health than their peers who do not partake in recreational gambling.

This is not what one would originally assume, but surprisingly the study contradicts previous research about gamblers; finding that older adults who engage in recreational gambling seem to be in better health than older adults who do not gamble. The study, which consisted of a telephone survey of 2,417 adults used alcohol and drug use / dependence, depression, mental health treatment, subjective general health, incarceration, and bankruptcy to measure the overall health of both the gamblers and the non-gamblers. Not surprisingly however older gamblers did report higher alcohol use than non-gamblers. Comparing the results to those of younger adults they found that recreational gambling in older adults is not associated with negative measures of health and well-being like it is in their younger counterparts. (Desai 2004)

Just how reliable is this study? Even the authors agree that more research than a telephone interview needs to be done, as many people who are involved in the treatment of gamblers have been skeptical to the study?s results. Desai, the study?s main author, suggests that perhaps the social aspect of gambling is responsible for the decreased health problems of older gamblers. (Survey Suprise 2004)

?It may get them out, but the socialization isn?t that much because they sit in front of machines, interacting with them?, says psychologist Elizabeth Stirling in the ABC news article (2004), ?I guess if you can keep it at a limit spend $20 and go once a week there?s no harm to it, but a benefit I can?t see.? According to the article, many other psychologists agree with her.

So why then did many older gamblers say they were in better health than their non-gambling counterparts? The first thing that sticks out in the mind of the skeptics is the fact that correlation is not causation. That is to say, just because two things are related does not mean that one caused the other or vice versa. There are many other factors to take into account when studying older people.

Firstly, most elderly people that are in bad health can?t make it out to the casino on a regular basis, if at all. Many adults over the age of 65 reside in nursing homes, rely on breathing machines, are confined to wheelchairs, do not drive, and perhaps most importantly have a fixed income such as social security that they cannot afford to gamble away. Those that are still in good health may simply gamble out of boredom. Many older adults may spend their days at the casino out of boredom because they have no job to go to or family left at home to care for.

Secondly, many chronic gamblers simply do not make it to age 65. Whether they have gambled away their medication money, developed a cognitive impairment from years of gambling, succumbed to depression or substance abuse, or pulled a ?Leaving Las Vegas? and committed suicide, many gamblers may not live to see the age of 65; especially those that have a health problem of any sort.

As the amount of cities with casinos grows and the amount of Americans over the age of 65 become an increasingly larger percentage of the population, more studies on the health affects of gambling are needed. While the act of throwing away one?s savings may provide valuable mental exercise, increase brain activity, and even help fend off Alzheimer?s disease, there are still many reasons to be skeptical of this study.

There is no hard evidence that links recreational gambling to good health in adults over 65. Gamblers, however, have also been known to bluff; and without the hard science to back it up, this study many only prove what many people already know to be true: Gamblers have a penchant for delusion.

References

Desai, Rani A, Maciejewski, Paul K, Dausey, David J, Caldarone, Barbara J, Potenz, Marc N (2004). Health Correlates of Recreational Gambling in Older Adults. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 161, 1672-1680.

Associated Press (2004, September 14). Survey Surprise: Recreational Gambling Linked to Good Health in Older Americans. Retrieved September 16, 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://www.abcnews.com

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About Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones is an SEO from Detroit. By day he works as a manager of SEO & Analytics at SapientNitro where his team performs SEO for Fortune500 clients. By night he's either playing hockey or attempting to take over the world with his own websites - which he would have already succeeded in doing had it not been for those meddling kids and their dog. The views expressed here have not been paid for and belong only to Ryan, not any of his employers or clients. Follow Ryan on Twitter at: @RyanJones, add him on Google+ or visit his personal website: www.RyanMJones.com