Gambling, health and age: Data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions

Abstract

The health effects of recreational gambling are presently unclear, particularly across age groups. Theories of healthy aging suggest that social activities, including gambling, may be beneficial to the health of older adults. Using cross-sectional data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (N=43,093), the authors examined associations between gambling (categorized as nongambling, recreational gambling, or problem/pathological gambling) and health and functioning measures stratified by age (40-64 years and =65). Problem/pathological gambling was uniformly associated with poorer health measures among both younger and older adults. Among younger respondents, poorer health measures were also found among recreational gamblers. However, among older respondents, recreational gambling was associated not only with some negative measures (e.g., obesity) but also with some positive measures (e.g., better physical and mental functioning). Longitudinal studies are needed to clarify the relationship between gambling and health in older adults in the context of healthy aging.

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