Gambling is great fun, but it turns out that evidence indicates it’s great for your overall health, too. Gambling activities can help with conditions ranging from depression to heart disease. I can’t imagine that your doctor’s going to get out his prescription pad and write down that you should play the slot machines for an hour a day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of the health benefits from gambling.
Here are 7 ailments that can be cured and/or prevented by gambling:
According to this article from NBC News, a study from Yale seems to indicate that gambling can sharpen the brain function of older gamblers. Sharpened brain function is the opposite of dementia. I’m not sure why casinos haven’t started funding studies to support gambling activities as a treatment for Alzheimers, but maybe they should think about it?
Obviously, playing slot machines is unlikely to do much for your cognitive function, but games that involve thinking–poker, blackjack, sports betting, and video poker–are probably going to keep someone’s mind occupied in the same way that working crossword puzzles, reading, and learning a foreign language do.
According to that same article, older Americans who gamble reported less alcoholism than the general population. I doubt that gambling is an effective treatment for alcoholism. In fact, if you have impulse control problems, gambling might become just another addiction.
On the other hand, I know plenty of recovering alcoholics and drug addicts who seem to enjoy casino gambling in moderation. Maybe this one is (speculatively, at least) an opportunity to prevent alcoholism and/or drug addiction.
According to Everyday Health, one effective treatment for depression is making friends. Some forms of gambling offer plenty of opportunities to make friends and socialize, but you have to choose the right games. Poker is an obvious choice, since there’s a lot of socializing going on around the Texas holdem tables.
You’ll often see lots of older Americans getting together to visit bingo halls and casinos. Any activity you can find that you enjoy which brings you together with others is going to improve your overall health, especially as it relates to depression. Betting activities definitely count.
On the other hand, solitary gambling activities–like playing slot machines–might have the opposite effect and exacerbate depression.
4. Heart Disease
According to CardiacHealth.org, regular exercise is a critical component in the prevention of heart disease. They recommend 30 to 60 minutes of walking 4 to 6 times per week. Regular trips to the casino can achieve this, and you won’t even know you’re walking.
I live driving distance from the Winstar Casino, which is one of the largest casinos in the United States. If you can’t get in plenty of walking there, you’re not trying.
Yeah, I’m cheating a little bit with this one. It’s the walking (not the gambling) that provides the health benefits, but if getting to and from the blackjack tables is what it takes for you to get more walking into your exercise routine, then I’m all for it.
If you don’t think that stress is an ailment, then you haven’t experience much of it. According to this post, gambling has a similar effect on people who are stressed as reading books on a regular basis. And according to this post, reading is one of the best treatments for stress that you could ask for.
Am I suggesting you should give up reading and start gambling, instead?
I am suggesting that if your stress levels are high, and if you dislike reading, then a visit to the casino (online or not) might provide similar health benefits.
At its heart, the activity of placing bets is a type of gameplay. And the health benefits of playing games are well-documented and uncontroversial. HelpGuide has a great post about the many benefits of playing games, and one of the most beneficial aspects from a health perspective is reduced fatigue.
Of course, if you’re exhausted, the best cure is probably still going to involve rest. But recreational activities provide numerous health benefits, and we shouldn’t eliminate casino games from the list just because of some silly Puritan attitudes we inherited and didn’t think critically about.
Online casino games are a type of video game, and video games have some surprising health benefits, too. One of the benefits touted in this post from Mental Floss is an improvement in dyslexia symptoms.
If you’re not sure whether or not your online casino game playing is helping with your dyslexia, try this simple experiment:
Then engage in your favorite online casino games for a few weeks. Try more reading comprehension games every week.
If your scores are improving, then your dyslexia symptoms are probably abating.
Of course, no one would suggest that addictive or excessive gambling is a healthy activity. That doesn’t mean we should ignore the health benefits of moderate gambling. After all, if a glass of red wine every day is healthy for some people, a few hands of blackjack might be, too.
The problems come up with people who can’t handle just one glass of wine per day. No one is going to suggest that killing a bottle of red every night is going to help your heart. By the same token, no one is going to suggest that blowing all your money on slot machines is going to improve your health, either.
If you do have addiction problems, get the help you need. Treatments vary dramatically, and some treatments work better for some than others. Not everyone needs a 12 step program, but you can find one for almost any addiction you can imagine, including gambling.
On the other hand, if you’re able to enjoy poker and other casino games in moderation, you needn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about your hobby. In fact, you should focus on maximizing the health benefits available.
That means sticking with games which require thinking. It means parking far away so that you get more health benefits from walking. And it means playing games where you socialize with other gamblers.
Health has as much to do with attitude as anything. Do you (or can you) have a healthy attitude about gambling?