Health Correlates of Recreational Gambling in Older Adults

Published in: American Journal of Psychiatry, v. 161, no. 9, Sep. 2004, p. 1672-1679

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2004

by Rani A. Desai, Paul K. Maciejewski, David J. Dausey, Barbara J. Caldarone, Marc N. Potenza

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OBJECTIVE: Prior studies have found high rates of alcohol use and abuse/dependence, depression, bankruptcy, and incarceration associated with recreational gambling. Despite growing rates of recreational gambling in older adults, little is known regarding its health correlates in this age group. The objective of this study was to identify health and well-being correlates of past-year recreational gambling in adults age 65 years and older, compared to adults age 18-64 years. METHOD: The Gambling Impact and Behavior Study surveyed by telephone a nationally representative sample of 2,417 adults. Multivariate analyses were used to compare past-year recreational gamblers and nongamblers in the older and younger age groups on measures of alcohol use and abuse/dependence, substance abuse/dependence, depression, mental health treatment, subjective general health, incarceration, and bankruptcy. Additional analyses compared the gambling patterns in older and younger adult past-year recreational gamblers. RESULTS: After the effects of sociodemographic factors were controlled, older adult past-year recreational gamblers were more likely to report past-year alcohol use and better health than were older nongamblers. Multivariate analyses investigating interactions of gambling and age found that higher rates of good to excellent subjective general health in recreational gamblers were mainly attributable to the older age group. Older adult gamblers were more likely than younger adult gamblers to begin gambling after age 18 years, to gamble more frequently, and to report a larger maximum win. CONCLUSIONS: Recreational gambling patterns of older adults differ from those of younger adults. In contrast to findings in younger adults, recreational gambling in older adults is not associated with negative measures of health and well-being.

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