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Older gamblers healthier than younger ones

September 13, 2004|Rick Green | Hartford Courant

Older gamblers are healthier than their younger counterparts, who have higher rates of alcohol and substance abuse, bankruptcy, depression and incarceration, researchers at Yale University have found.

The reason may have nothing to do with the relative health benefits of a slot machine, instant lottery ticket or bingo game, however.

"Older folks who are getting out into the community and remaining active ... are healthier and tend to stay healthy," said Rani A. Desai, associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. "You cannot conclude out of this research that gambling makes you healthy. What you can conclude is that [older] gamblers are healthier."

Still, the Yale researchers noted that for people 65 and older, "recreational gambling ... may even possibly provide some beneficial effect." Gambling, they found, "may allow for increased socialization, community activity and travel, which may in turn be reflected in more positive ratings of health."

The study was reported in this month's issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry. It consisted of nationwide telephone interviews of 2,417 adults and compared the health of older and younger adults who had gambled in the last year with those who had not.

"It raises more questions than it answers," said Marc Potenza, senior author of the study.

The Yale study was paid for in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the American Psychiatric Assn., the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the National Center for Responsible Gaming and Women's Health Research at Yale.

The National Center for Responsible Gaming is funded by the casino industry.

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