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Gambling Among Older, Primary-Care Patients: An Important Public Health Concern

Laughing about the grandmotherly bingo queens might be funny until we find out that grandma just gambled away the rent, or didn't have enough money left after her loses for groceries or the light bill.

With the increase in gambling outlets whether they are lottery outlets, VLTs, casinos, or internet gambling, we will see an increase in problem gambling in our society in the coming years. This addiction hits especially hard on senior citizens with fixed incomes, time on their hands, who enjoy an "outing" on the bus to the casino as a way to cope with lonliness, and isolation.

Co-moribity with other substance abuse and psychiatric disorders is high.

The study published in the January, 2005 issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that 2/3s of the study participants had gambled in the previous year, and for 10% it posed a problem with participants saying that they gambled $100.00 or more on a single bet, or bet more than they thought they could afford to loose.

"Of 843 screened patients completing the gambling questionnaire, 69.6% reported that they had participated in at least one gambling activity in the last year. At-risk gamblers were defined as those who reported having bet more than $100 on a single bet and/or having bet more than they could afford to lose in the last year. Of those responding, 10.9% were identified as at-risk gamblers. The strongest predictors of at-risk gambling behavior were being a binge drinker, presence of current posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, minority race/ethnicity, and being a VA clinic patient. Subjects with mild-to-moderate cognitive impairment were just as likely as those without impairment to gamble and to report at-risk gambling behavior. At-risk gambling behavior was not significantly associated with gender, current or past depressive symptoms, or cigarette smoking."

Link: Gambling Among Older, Primary-Care Patients: An Important Public Health Concern -- Levens et al. 13 (1): 69 -- American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

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