[Gambling and Gaming disorders and physical health of players: A critical review of the literature]

Loriane Benchebra, Jean-Marc Alexandre, Jacques Dubernet, Mélina Fatséas, Marc Auriacombe
La Presse Médicale 2019 November 22

CONTEXT: Gambling and gaming disorders have been introduced as addictions in the DSM-5 and have been announced for the next edition of the ICD. Links between gambling and gaming and psychiatric comorbidities have been thoroughly investigated, but so far the impact of gambling and gaming on physical health has been overlooked.

OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to evaluate the impact of gaming and gambling disorders on the physical health of gamers and gamblers.

SOURCES: We conducted a systematic review of the literature, using PubMed/Medline to retrieve studies with the following: keywords: "gambling" ; "pathological gambling" ; "gambling health" ; "gaming" ; "pathological gaming" and "gaming health".

PAPERS SELECTION: Selected studies all reported on the physical health of gamers and gamblers with addiction. We obtained 133 articles from the Medline database. After screening abstracts and introductions and full reading of papers we retrieved 25 articles for this review. Seventeen articles reporting 56,179 subjects with gambling disorder and 8 articles reporting 63,887 subjects with gaming disorder.

RESULTS: All papers described the physical health of individuals with gaming and gambling disorders. For gambling, data showed the existence of digestive disorder (20 to 40%), sleeping disorders (35 to 68%), headaches (20 to 30%) and cardiovascular disorders: tachycardia (9%) and coronary artery disease (2 to 23%). Results were mostly significant when compared to the general population. For gaming, available studies reported qualitative data. Most frequently reported symptoms were sleeping complaints, joint pain, headaches and visual problems. These symptoms were more frequently described for teenagers. Sleeping complaints were the most frequently reported symptom.

LIMITS: Although we found that the physical health of gamers and gamblers with addiction was impaired, no study investigated the causal role of addiction, gaming, and gambling. Further studies are needed to better understand how behavioral addictions impact physical heath.

CONCLUSION: Data reported in this review documented that individuals with gaming or gambling disorders have an impaired physical health. Knowledge of the symptoms reported could help primary care physicians to better screen for gambling and gaming disorders among their patients.

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