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Gambling disorder is a significant concern for the aging population

Subramaniam M, Wang P, Soh P, et al.  Prevalence and determinants of gambling disorder among older adults: A systematic review  Addictive Behaviours. October 2014; 41: 199-209.

Review question

What is the prevalence of gambling disorder among adults aged 60 years and older, and what are the associated determinants, risk factors and comorbidities?


Studies show that gambling is a popular social activity for older adults. However, research related to the motivational factors that encourage older adults to gamble is somewhat limited.

Various factors, such as gambling availability, as well as related health, social and psychological challenges associated with gambling, render the growing older adult population particularly vulnerable to gambling problems.

This review aimed to highlight the prevalence of gambling disorders among older adults, in order to promote the prevention and healthy management of gambling disorders in future.

How the review was done

A detailed search was conducted of a number of electronic databases for studies published from 1995 to 2013. Studies that focused on gambling disorders and older adults were included in the review.

A total of 1,300 studies were identified in searches, and 25 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

This review was funded by the Singapore Ministry of Health's National Medical Research Council under its NMRC Research Training Fellowship Grant.

What the researchers found

The prevalence of gambling among older adults highlighted by the studies ranged from 0.01% in Denmark to 10.6% in the United States. Pathological gambling ranged from 0% to 1.2% globally.

Gambling disorder is higher among men than women, and among younger adults than those over 60. The studies included in the review also reveal that older adults with gambling disorders are more likely to be single, divorced or separated, and often gamble as a coping mechanism for emotional stress.

Gambling disorders among older adults increase their risk of developing illnesses, and alcohol and drug abuse and dependence, possibly due to the sedentary nature of gambling and the emotional hormonal-related stimuli.


The review identified gambling disorders as a significant concern for the aging population. To avoid the harmful physical, mental and social consequences, further investigation on the topic of disordered gambling to better understand the phenomenon on a broader scale, is recommended.


Risk factors
Aspects making a condition more likely.

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