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Gambling Can Lead Distraught Seniors to Suicide

Seniors who are bored or lonely may be more vulnerable to addictive behaviors. If you think that a loved one is getting off the track of a healthy lifestyle, encourage professional help and support.


Q.    My elderly father has been spending more and more time at the casinos since my mother died. My husband said this is just harmless fun, but I’m not so sure. What do you think?


We think you should encourage your father to strike a better balance in his life and here’s why: older problem gamblers who ask casinos to bar them from returning are three to four times more likely to do so because they fear they will kill themselves if they don’t stop betting, according to a study.

Researchers Lia Nower, J.D., Ph.D., of the Rutgers University Center for Gambling Studies, and Alex Blaszczynski, Ph.D. of the University of Sydney, Australia, looked at 1,601 self-described problem gamblers who asked between 2001 and 2003 to be banned from Missouri casinos. The results of their study were published in Psychology and Aging by the American Psychological Association.

Older adults – over age 55 in this study – reported gambling an average of 17 years before “self-exclusion” – more than twice the length of time reported by younger adults.


All participants were asked to cite the main reason or reasons why they sought to be barred from casinos. Younger, middle-aged and older adults all gave as the primary reasons gaining control, needing help and hitting rock bottom. However, nearly 14 percent of older adults surveyed – a higher proportion than any other group – indicated they sought help because they wanted to prevent themselves from committing suicide.

“This is particularly troubling because, irrespective of age, problem gamblers have reported rates of suicidal ideation and/or attempts as high as six times those found in the general population,” Nower says.

So your concern is justified. Why not encourage other interests that your dad may have had when your mom was alive. A companion from Home Instead Senior Care® could help. The company hires CAREGiversSM – both males and females – who could encourage your dad to strive for a more balanced lifestyle. If you’re concerned your dad has a serious gambling problem, ask him to contact Gamblers Anonymous.


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