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Problem gambling in U.S. more common than alcohol addiction

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Problem gambling

Gambling more of a problem in U.S. adults than drinking

Experts on gambling addiction at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions find problem gambling in the United States is more common than frequent alcohol use that has gained much more attention.

In research findings published in the Journal of Gambling Studies, John W. Welte, principal investigator and a national expert on alcohol and gambling pathology, found evidence that problem gambling is considerably more prevalent than might be known.

Combined surveys show extent of problem gambling

Welte and colleagues conducted two surveys then used the combined findings to find the extent of problem gambling across the U.S.

The first survey included 14 to 21 year olds and the second focused on those 18 years of age or above. The results showed gambling increases during teen years, peaking between ages 20 to 30; then declines over age 70 and is more widely reported than use or abuse of alcohol.

Gambling more prevalent in lower socioeconomic groups and men

The investigation showed problem gambling among men is twice that of women and is more frequent and problematic, as socioeconomic status gets lower.

Welte says rather than gambling for recreation, lower socioeconomic groups create further problems by pursuing gambling as a way to make money.

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He explains the results are significant because, "No comparable analysis has been done previously and therefore none is available for a direct comparison of these results.”But, given what we found about the persistence of frequent and problem gambling through adulthood, increased prevention and intervention efforts are warranted."

The two studies included assessment of frequency of alcohol consumption, quantity and type of alcoholic beverage, past-gambling frequency in the past year and type of gambling.

The surveys included 2,631 adults from 4,036 households nationwide and the first was conducted in 1999-2000 by telephone.

The second survey was obtained 2005-2007 that included 2,274 youth from 4,467 households, given parental permission to participate.

Gambling in general peaks for males in their late teens and is later for women and more frequent among whites than blacks or Asians, with frequent activity higher among blacks and Native Americans.

The findings suggest problem gambling is more prevalent than drinking, yet the authors note alcohol abuse and addiction receives much more attention. The researchers note their findings show frequent gambling is more widespread in the U.S. than most research literature reveals.

Journal of Gambling Studies: DOI: 10.1007/s10899-010-9195-z
"Gambling and Problem Gambling Across the Lifespan"
John W. Welte, Grace M. Barnes, Marie-Cecile O. Tidwell and Joseph H. Hoffman