Gambling and Its Antecedents

Gambling involves betting something of value on an event that is based on random chance with the intention of winning some other item of value. Many people enjoy gambling for the thrill of taking a risk and the excitement of possibly winning, but there are also serious negative psychological and physical consequences associated with gambling. Having a gambling problem, or gambling disorder, is a recognised mental health condition that is included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5).

People who suffer from a gambling addiction often experience depression, headaches, distress, intestinal disorders, and other symptoms. In addition, they may find it difficult to work and relationships are affected. In severe cases, people who struggle with gambling problems can even attempt suicide.

A growing body of research suggests that some people are particularly vulnerable to developing gambling problems. People with low socioeconomic status, for example, are at greater risk of having gambling disorders than those from higher incomes. Young people, especially boys and men, are also more likely to develop a gambling problem than women. People who have a family history of gambling are also more likely to be at increased risk.

It is important to understand the causes of gambling problems, as this can help develop strategies for prevention and treatment. In the present study, we use data from the long-term British ALSPAC cohort to investigate patterns of participation in gambling and its antecedents among children, adolescents and adults. The cohort consists of more than 9,000 individuals who were followed from age 6 to adulthood. Participants were asked to report their participation in gambling at ages 17 years and 20 years, and again at age 24 years, and to complete questions on a variety of antecedents.

Our main findings are that those who were more frequent gamblers at both ages had a higher sensation seeking score at age 17 and higher levels of depressive symptoms at age 24, whereas those who reported no gambling had lower scores on both measures at both ages. Those who were more frequent gamblers at age 20 years and at age 24 were also more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol on a weekly basis, have mothers with low educational qualification, live in deprived areas, and be unemployed/not in education.

If you are worried about your own or a loved one’s gambling habits, there are a number of organisations that offer support, assistance and counselling. It is also important to make sure that you do not use money intended for rent, food, or other essentials to gamble, and that you never borrow to fund gambling. Also, consider setting a time limit for yourself when you go to the casino and try not to stay longer than that. If you are struggling to control your gambling, it is a good idea to get rid of credit cards and have someone else be in charge of your finances.