Objectives: To evaluate the prospective associations between at-risk/problem/pathological gambling (ARPG) and incident medical conditions among older adults.
Methods: Secondary data analysis of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, waves 1 and 2, collected from 2001 to 2002 and 2004 to 2005, respectively. Participants are adults aged 55 years and older (n = 10,231) who were selected from a nationally representative community sample of adults residing in the United States. Past-year diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling at wave 1 were evaluated with the Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule—Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—Fourth Edition. Physical health conditions were assessed at wave 1 and wave 2. Logistic regression modeling was conducted on groups categorized as ARPG (participants endorsing 1 or more inclusionary criteria for pathological gambling) and non-ARPG (nongambling/low-frequency gambling or gambling without endorsement of pathological gambling criteria).
Results: Relative to non-ARPG, ARPG is prospectively associated with elevated incidences of arteriosclerosis and any heart condition, independently of wave-1 sociodemographic characteristics, psychiatric comorbidity, substance use, and body mass index.
Conclusions: Older adults who demonstrate risky or problematic levels of gambling may be at particular risk for the onset of some physical health conditions. Individuals with at-risk/problem/pathological gambling features should be monitored more closely for the development of these conditions and encouraged to adopt activities that confer health benefits. Efforts should be made to educate older adults and their caretakers on the adverse incident physical health conditions associated with ARPG.