Diminishing self-control may explain why elders gamble

June 5th, 2009 - 1:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, June 5 (IANS) Gambling problems among elders may stem from decreased self-control, caused by age-related decline in the frontal lobes of their brain.
“These results raise the possibility that increased gambling among older adults might not always be an issue of personal choice,” said Bill von Hippel, professor at the University of Queensland (UQ).

“Some older adults might have difficulty engaging in self-control when gambling due to losses in frontal lobe functioning.” These lobes are associated with reasoning, planning, parts of speech, movement, emotions and problem solving.

“In our samples of older adult gamblers, those who had more difficulty with tasks that rely on the frontal lobes were also more likely to have gambling problems,” von Hippel said.

“And these gambling problems appeared to be important, as they were associated with financial difficulties and depression.”

He added that rates of gambling problems in older adults had risen with increased accessibility of gambling venues, but that wasn’t the whole story.

“Our findings suggest that accessibility is only part of the problem, as gambling establishments might be taking advantage of older adults who have problems with self-control and limited opportunities to earn back their losses,” said von Hippel.

“If our findings are supported by further research, it might be appropriate to consider protection for older gamblers,” he said, according to a UQ release.

“For example, most older adults show better frontal lobe functioning earlier in the day, so they might gamble more wisely if they avoid gambling in the afternoon or evening.”

This research was published in the latest issue of Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition.

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