Cognitive distortions among older adult gamblers in an Asian context


The study aims to describe the construct of cognitive distortions based on the narratives of older adult gamblers (aged 60 years and above) in Singapore.

Singapore residents (citizens or permanent residents) aged 60 years and above, who were current or past regular gamblers were included in the study. Participants were recruited using a combination of venue based approach, referrals from service providers as well as by snowball sampling. In all, 25 in-depth interviews were conducted with older adult gamblers. The six-step thematic network analysis methodology was adopted for data analysis.

The mean age of the participants was 66.2 years. The majority were male (n = 18), of Chinese ethnicity (n = 16), with a mean age of gambling initiation at 24.5 years. Among older adult gamblers, cognitive distortions emerged as a significant global theme comprising three organizing themes–illusion of control, probability control and interpretive control. The organizing themes comprised nine basic themes: perception of gambling as a skill, near miss, concept of luck, superstitious beliefs, entrapment, gambler’s fallacy, chasing wins, chasing losses, and beliefs that wins are more than losses.

Cognitive distortions were endorsed by all gamblers in the current study and were shown to play a role in both maintaining and escalating the gambling behaviour. While the surface characteristics of the distortions had a culture-specific appearance, the deeper characteristics of the distortions may in fact be more universal than previously thought. Future research must include longitudinal studies to understand causal relationships between cognitive distortions and gambling as well as the role of culture-specific distortions both in the maintenance and treatment of the disorder.

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