For years people have enjoyed going to play bingo in their local community centres, halls or dedicated bingo clubs.
Many have seen it as not just a hobby or a way to potentially win a little money every now and then, but as a crucial part of their social lives.
The ability to meet up with friends on a regular basis, to talk and share daily experiences is something that many of the players just could not do without. This is especially the case if they were elderly or physically limited in any way.
Without a doubt there have been countless friendships and even relationships which have blossomed as a result of the social aspect of playing bingo. This is not particularly surprising bearing in mind all the players have one very obvious interest in common: the love of bingo. Therefore they are more likely to have other things in common and just understand each other more easily in general.
Although bingo in some form had been around for at least a couple of hundred years, it was only in the 1950’s and 60’s that bingo really gained popularity in the UK. This was mainly down to the growing trend for people to have their own televisions, therefore reducing the demand for cinemas and theatres for entertainment, and these then being turned into bingo halls.
The players in these bingo halls were generally women of an older generation, looking to escape routine at home or to socialise and meet new people. Men on the whole weren’t attracted to bingo as it was more of a social club, and males tend to prefer more serious and high stakes gambling in small groups, like with poker. Men still make up a tiny minority of bingo players – on and offline.
With the emergence of online bingo, perhaps a broader range of people have now started to enjoy the game. There is still the outdated idea many have that bingo players are just all ladies of a certain age playing in halls. But this is definitely not the case anymore.
Perhaps it is indicative of today’s hectic and often stressful society that online bingo has become most popular with people (predominantly women, around 80%) between the ages of 30 and 50. Are there any mental health benefits involved with playing online bingo? Anecdotal evidence and psychological studies would certainly suggest so.
Julie Winstone from the University of Southampton’s Centre for Visual Cognition at the Department of Psychology has tested the mental agility of bingo players. She studied the responses of 112 people aged 18 to 40, and older people aged between 60 and 82. Half of each group played bingo, and the other half didn’t. The results were that the bingo players performed mental tasks faster and more accurately than those who did not play. Interestingly, older bingo players were more accurate than the younger ones.
Ms Winstone said these results suggested that long-term mental activity – such as bingo – could help to postpone the decline of cognitive abilities, such as accuracy, speed and recognition of patterns.
In the general public, studies have shown that people who play bingo every day have better memory, better reactions and they tend to feel livelier overall.
Online bingo is an excellent brain exercise, another aspect of good mental health and wellbeing. Turning the auto-daub function off when playing games forces you to keep focus on the numbers being called, as well as sharpening your overall mental dexterity.
Many online bingo players have also said that they find playing the game a good stress reliever, and an enjoyable way to relax after a long day. In fact it has been shown in studies that playing bingo genuinely relieves stress. This is of course if playing doesn’t become a crutch for emotional problems or it starts turning into an addiction.
Studies have proven that social interaction is crucial to our mental and overall wellbeing. Aside from conversation making us feel happy at the time, it also triggers feelings of attachment to those involved, so it’s not surprising close relationships develop. There has been research to suggest that those who engage in regular social activities live longer than those that do not.
The additional feature of chat rooms on online bingo sites has basically taken the place, to a large extent, of traditional bingo halls. Many people feel more comfortable socialising via a computer, tablet or mobile phone nowadays, and this would account for the meteoric rise in online bingo playing amongst the younger generations.
We’ve heard about how bingo can impact mental health if playing as a hobby turns into an addiction, but there is equally plenty of evidence to suggest playing bingo actually aids some mental health problems.
The role of online bingo must be incredibly important to those who have conditions that leave them unable to leave the house – agoraphobics for example.
For many housebound people, the online world is often the only world for them, and their only chance to interact with others. Online bingo is known to be a very friendly and welcoming place, due to most sites having dedicated chat rooms where players can chat and share stories.
This virtual support system may be crucial for the stability of the agoraphobic’s condition, giving them the confidence to be themselves without being crippled by the outside world. They perhaps would never feel able to play a game at the hall in their local area.
And of course, if many people with mental health issues are all in the same online space, it can act almost as a therapy session. Users of site chat rooms may find the only people they can talk to about their feelings are their fellow bingo players.
There is the issue of whether an already fragile mind and outlook could be further damaged by the playing of online gambling, such as bingo games. Will the agoraphobic or individual with an anxiety disorder be easily stressed as easily as they are energised by the game and the social aspect of it?
Depression is also another mental health issue that may be improved by playing online bingo. Sufferers often feel too drained to have any contact with others in the physical world, but may find it much easier to interact over a game of online bingo. Just in the act of socialising may a person with depression find that their symptoms reduce in severity.
There haven’t really been any studies on this area yet, but the future relationship between online bingo and mental health will no doubt be a fascinating one.
Links for Further Information
NHS – www.nhs.uk
Mind – 0300 123 3393 www.mind.org.uk
Alzheimer’s Society – Helpline: 0300 222 11 22 www.alzheimers.org.uk
Mental Health Foundation – http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/