Older problem gamblers may face greater suicide risk than younger counterparts, study finds

September 16, 2008,

Compared to their younger counterparts, older problem gamblers who ask casinos to bar them from returning are three to four times more likely to do so because they fear they will kill themselves if they don't stop betting, according to a new study.

Researchers Lia Nower, JD, PhD, of the Rutgers University Center for Gambling Studies, and Alex Blaszczynski, Ph.D. of the University of Sydney, Australia, looked at 1,601 self-described problem gamblers who asked between 2001 and 2003 to be banned from Missouri casinos. The results of their study were published in the September issue of Psychology and Aging, published by the American Psychological Association.

Older adults – over age 55 in this study -- reported gambling an average of 17 years before "self-exclusion" – more than twice the length of time reported by younger adults. All participants were asked to cite the main reason or reasons why they sought to be barred from casinos. Younger, middle-aged and older adults all gave as the primary reasons gaining control, needing help and hitting rock bottom. However, nearly 14 percent of older adults surveyed – a higher proportion than any other group – indicated they sought help because they wanted to prevent themselves from committing suicide.

"This is particularly troubling because, irrespective of age, problem gamblers have reported rates of suicidal ideation and/or attempts as high as six times those found in the general population," Nower says.

This study is the first to examine age differences in the demographic characteristics and gambling preferences of people who ask to be barred from casinos. Under these programs, gamblers who believe they have a problem can enter an agreement with a casino and/or state regulators authorizing casino staff to bar them. If they are found on the premises, they agree to be physically removed and possibly charged with trespass. Exclusion periods can range from six months to an irrevocable lifetime ban. In 1996, Missouri became the first state in the United States to implement an exclusion program. Similar programs now operate in Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi and New Jersey, as well as six Canadian provinces and a handful of other countries, according to the researchers.

Other key differences among demographic groups:

-- Compared to younger adults, older adults were more likely to prefer non-strategic games such as slot machines, video poker and lottery tickets. The researchers noted that such preferences may accelerate the onset of gambling problems, particularly in light of the misperceptions of randomness and the probability of winning such games.

-- In addition, the older adults in this sample began gambling at a significantly later age than the other two groups. "In particular, older women began gambling at about 49 but did not experience serious gambling problems until around the age of 60," the researchers wrote. "In contrast, men began gambling more than a decade earlier, at 37, and also self-excluded around age 60."

-- Older adults are also less likely to receive mental health treatment, due to factors including inadequate Medicare coverage, under-diagnosis and a lack of physician referrals. "This reluctance to access care, combined with the increased potential for suicidal ideation, could increase the risk for self-harm among older adult problem gamblers without targeted interventions to assist them in accessing services," the researchers wrote.

Source: American Psychological Association

Explore further: Team reports gambling research results to Massachusetts Gaming Commission

Related Stories

Team reports gambling research results to Massachusetts Gaming Commission

January 11, 2018
Results of a baseline study on gambling behavior in Massachusetts that establishes how people participated - or not - in gambling prior to the opening of any casinos were reported today to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission ...

Gamblers more likely to have suffered childhood traumas, research shows

August 2, 2017
Men with problem and pathological gambling addictions are more likely to have suffered childhood traumas including physical abuse or witnessing violence in the home, according to new research.

Fantasy sports fueling a rise in online gambling addiction

April 11, 2016
Poison comes in many forms for addicts: Alcohol and drugs usually come first to mind, but gambling - often overlooked - is of increasing concern to state officials and rehab centers.

Pathological gambling runs in families

June 16, 2014
A study by University of Iowa researchers confirms that pathological gambling runs in families and shows that first-degree relatives of pathological gamblers are eight times more likely to develop this problem in their lifetime ...

Personalized computer feedback can mitigate problem gambling behaviors

April 14, 2015
More than 1.6 million college-aged adults meet the criteria for problem gambling. This can lead to difficulties at work, school or home, and with relationships, personal finances, and mental and physical health. Counseling ...

Pathological gambling is associated with altered opioid system in the brain

October 19, 2014
All humans have a natural opioid system in the brain. Now new research, presented at the ECNP Congress in Berlin, has found that the opioid system of pathological gamblers responds differently to those of normal healthy volunteers. ...

Recommended for you

Social media use at age 10 could reduce wellbeing of adolescent girls

March 19, 2018
Social media use may have different effects on wellbeing in adolescent boys and girls, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

We can read each other's emotions from surprisingly tiny changes in facial color, study finds

March 19, 2018
Our faces broadcast our feelings in living color—even when we don't move a muscle.

Study with infants suggests language not necessary for reasoning ability

March 16, 2018
A team of researchers from Spain, Hungary and Poland has found via a study with infants that language may not be a necessity for the ability to reason. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

Hep C compounds alcoholism's effect on brain volume

March 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Alcohol dependence has deleterious effects on frontal cortical volumes that are compounded by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and drug dependence, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Study casts doubt on ketamine nasal sprays for depression

March 16, 2018
Researchers from the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney have questioned the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine for depression, with their pilot trial stopped early due to poor side effects in patients.

Older adults' difficulties with focusing can be used to help put a face to a name

March 16, 2018
Everyone has experienced the awkward situation of meeting someone and then forgetting their name shortly after. Among older adults, this happens more often than not.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.