The economic burden of pathological gambling and co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders

Abstract

Objectives:
Disordered gambling often co-occurs with psychiatric and substance use disorders. The study aim was to assess the healthcare costs of pathological gambling (PG) and co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders by payer. This is the first-of-its-kind economic analysis of addictive behaviors and mental health disorders.

Methods:
Study data were derived from the Massachusetts All-Payer Claims Data—a representative health claims database—for the period 2009 to 2013. The study analytical sample contained all medical and pharmaceutical claims for commercially insured Massachusetts residents who were aged ≥18 years, had health insurance coverage, had a diagnosis of PG, and sought care in the Commonwealth. Healthcare cost components included outpatient, inpatient, emergency room visits, and prescription drugs. Bootstrap analysis was performed to account for skewed distribution of cost data. All costs were adjusted to constant dollars.

Results:
The study sample included 599 patients over the study period. The most prevalent principal diagnoses were disorders of impulse control (50%), episodic mood disorders (31%), anxiety disorders (14%), and psychoactive substance (9%). The mean annual total expenditures on health care per patient with diagnosis of pathological gambling were $7993 ± $11,847 (bias-corrected 95% confidence interval) in 2009, $10,054 ± $14,555 in 2010, $9093 ± $13,422 in 2011, and $9523 ± $14,505 in 2012. Pharmaceutical expenditures represented 16% to 22% of total healthcare expenditures. In the study period, prescription drug co-pays represented approximately 16% of the pharmaceutical expenditures.

Conclusions:
Psychiatric comorbidity and substance use disorders, and nondependent abuse of drugs are highly prevalent among pathological gamblers. These disorders pose an economic burden to patients and healthcare payers.

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