A new study finds that gambling addiction has a significant impact on health.
Researchers from the University of Washington and Columbia University looked at gambling addiction in the United States from 2008 to 2010 and found that among the 1,000 participants in the study, an average of eight out of 10 were at risk for a major health issue, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Among those who suffered from a major illness or died, more than 50% had a gambling addiction.
“For those at the highest risk, a gambling relapse can lead to significant morbidity and mortality, especially in older adults,” lead author Michael Fuchs, a UW assistant professor of psychiatry, said in a statement.
“We know that gambling is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and that it can affect every facet of life.”
Fuchs is the co-author of the study with UW associate professor of economics, Jennifer Hausfeld.
The researchers also found that gambling can cause a significant increase in the risk of developing heart disease and cancer in the long term.
“Our findings suggest that there are health consequences for people who gamble, including higher mortality, higher rates of disease, and a greater likelihood of being hospitalized,” Fuchs said.
“These findings raise questions about whether people who gambled may have a significant and long-lasting impact on their health.”
For their study, the researchers analyzed the gambling habits of 1,700 adults and 1,300 people who had been diagnosed with gambling addiction, which is a condition characterized by chronic or recurrent use of gambling as a means to self-medicate from the effects of depression, anxiety, and other psychological or behavioral disorders.
The participants were also asked to complete questionnaires about their gambling behavior, and the researchers looked at their health, including death and morbidity rates.
“There is some evidence that gambling causes heart disease,” Fuch said.
The results of the researchers’ study have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In addition to Fuchs and Hausfield, co-authors of the new study are David L. Storch, a PhD candidate in the UW Department of Psychiatry; and Joshua R. Hargis, a postdoctoral fellow in the department’s Department of Health Policy.
The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The study is published in PLOS ONE.