Gambling and substance use by the elderly: a review of the literature

BACKGROUND: Literature presents comorbidity between pathological gambling, substance use/abuse and affective disorders (depression being the most prevalent) in adults. The prevalence of depression disorder in elderly people is high, making them vulnerable to pathological gambling and substance abuse. With the increase of this population worldwide, more research regarding these issues has become necessary. OBJECTIVES: Assess the involvement of the elderly in gambling activities and its correlation with substance abuse. METHODS: Literature review of MEDLINE, LILACS and PsycINFO databases without time limits. RESULTS: Elderly recreational gamblers present alcohol consumption and good general health. Elderly problem gamblers present alcohol abuse, with more psychiatric disorders and heart disease than recreational gamblers. When compared with adult or young gamblers, the elderly present fewer problems with alcohol consumption. Conclusions: As with adults, in the elderly a correlation also exists between gambling and substance abuse. The more problematic the gambling is, the more problematic the substance (alcohol) abuse, and the higher the prevalence of mood disorders (depression). A causal relationship between these factors can not yet be affirmed however, as more research is needed.

Pathological gambling; elderly; substance abuse; alcohol


Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo Rua Ovídio Pires de Campos, 785 , 05403-010 São Paulo SP Brasil, Tel./Fax: +55 11 2661-8011 - São Paulo - SP - Brazil
E-mail: archives@usp.br