British older adult gambling behaviour; evaluating psychological and physical health as predictive risk for problem gambling

Abstract

Lister and Nower (2013) acknowledged that despite increasing gambling participation in older adult populations there has been little systematic research investigating the nature and course of problem gambling in this population. Furthermore, little is known about problem gambling in older adults, with specific regard to etiology (Medeiros et al., 2015). It is proposed that currently unknown discrete or unique risk factors may predispose certain subgroups (e.g based on etiology, age, ethnicity) of older adults to develop gambling problems as compared to adults under the age of 65 years. Therefore, it was relevant to explore British older adult gambling behaviour to develop an understanding of gambling behaviour and experiences of British older adults. Fundamentally, this may generate clearer understanding of the motivation behind the increasing participation; and, in particular, potentially highlight risk factors that promote and sustain problem gambling. Currently, there is limited literature available to explore motivation and older adult gambling behaviour in a British context specifically, therefore it is not possible currently to identify cognitive and behavioural gambling patterns of British older adults with any confidence.

The objective of this research programme was to build knowledge and understanding of British older adult gambling behaviour with specific emphasis on evaluating psychological and age-related physical health differences as predictive risk factors for problem gambling.

The study employed a mixed methods approach for data collection and analysis. Employing grounded theory, the emergent theoretical framework in Study One provided four theoretical propositions in relation to understanding gambling motivation across British older adults. The core category to emerge proposed that British older adults gamble as a mechanism to alleviate distress experienced from psychological, lifestyle and physical changes associated with the ageing process. The theoretical propositions were explored in further studies within the thesis. A cross-sectional survey in study two sampled a total of 695 British older adult gamblers, non-gamblers and problem gamblers in commercial and non-commercial gambling venues and non-gambling environments.

Multiple regression analysis was conducted to investigate risk for problem gambling behaviour, type of gambling activity, participation level (gambling intensity) and psychological health. Using the enter method the model was significant (R2 = .441, p < .001), F (10, 612) = 49.240 p < .001). The strongest predictor was slot participation levels. The direction of Studies One and Two implicated elevated gambling frequency and increased risk for problem gambling in British older adult women.

The aim of Study Three was to explore and understand gambling experiences of high frequency older adult female gamblers in Britain. Through an Interpretative Phenomenological Analytical approach, three core themes emerged including that British older adult women gambled to fill voids, for emotional escape and risk of overspending when gambling. Overall the thesis provides detailed understandings of how psychological and physical health factors affect British older adult gambling behaviour. This provides direction for future research to develop further understanding of British older adult problem gambling behaviour, with the long-term goal of informing development of gambling interventions specifically for this population.

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