People who gamble are more likely to suffer from a variety of health problems, including heart and liver disease, a new study finds.
The researchers looked at three kinds of gamblers, whom they described as pathological, problem or at-risk, and found that all of them tended to report more medical concerns than the general population.
The pathological gamblers had the highest number of reported problems. But even occasional gamblers raised some red flags.
Taken together, the researchers write in Psychosomatic Medicine, â€œthese findings indicate that even a moderate amount of gambling (five or more times a year) is associated with some decreased health functioning. Benjamin J. Morasco, now with the Portland VA Medical Center in Oregon, led the study when he was at the University of Connecticut in Farmington.
The researchers drew on information gathered in a national health survey of more than 43,000 people. The people surveyed were asked a broad range of questions about their health and behaviors, including how often they gambled.
Gamblers were considered pathological if they were preoccupied with gambling and kept doing it even though it was causing difficulties at home or work. Problem gamblers were those whose troubles were not as severe. People who gambled five or more times a year were described as at-risk.
There were several explanations for why gamblers might suffer more health problems, the researchers said. People who gamble a lot are more likely to smoke and drink heavily. Beyond that, they may have higher stress levels.
By some estimates, the researchers said, the at-risk group makes up about a fourth of the population, so the findings suggest that there may be public health implications.
Source: The New York Times