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The pursuit of happiness is something to which many people dedicate their entire lives. Few people can say they don’t enjoy the feeling of being happy. Bookstores and the internet are awash with advice on how we can make ourselves happier, some ideas proven by science, others more anecdotal.

Many of the things that make us happy change as we grow up. Separate studies have examined the correlation between gambling and happiness levels, with some interesting results.

One method of inducing happiness that scientists have looked into for older people is gambling

Back in 2004, a study from Gonzaga University in the United States looked at the psychological benefits and self-concept dynamics of gambling for older people. It found that the “control, lift and escape” experienced during gambling were able to serve as intermediaries between hedonistic responses and deeper, psychological elements of the self. As such, gambling was seen as a way to enhance older people’s self-concepts, thus acting as positive reinforcement.

Online poker playing – a great activity for older people to engage in from home – brings the added bonus of providing something for nothing. Initial sign-up bonuses with poker rooms can range from free tickets to enter poker tournaments, to doubling your deposit when you join. The ability to hone your poker skills online also brings with it the potential to impress your friends when playing poker offline, thus acting as an excellent way to boost the enjoyment of poker nights for older people who want to enjoy the social aspects of the game.

A later study into the effects of gambling on nursing home residents’ happiness levels added further weight to the positive impacts of gambling. Baseline happiness levels were compared with those of residents who took place in simulated gambling activities. Excitingly, every single resident who took part in the study experienced an increase in happiness levels while taking part in the simulated gambling activities.

This later study, published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, also went on to examine the duration of the increase in happiness, by including follow up assessments after participants ceased gambling. The effects were found to dissipate when the activity ended – it was the act of gambling itself which produced the increase in happiness.

Happiness is important at any age, but as we get older its impact on health becomes more relevant. Berkeley University’s Greater Good Science Center reports that happiness has a range of health benefits. Happiness is linked to lower heart rates and blood pressure. It can strengthen the immune system. It fights stress and leads to fewer aches and pains. Finally, happiness can combat disease and actually lengthen our lives – a famous study of Catholic nuns that spanned decades found that those who were happiest in their 20s lived between seven and ten years longer than those who were the least happy.

The internet can remove many barriers for older people who embrace it – particularly for those who spend a great deal of time at home. It’s fascinating to know that it can be used to boost happiness and health levels as well.

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