Prevalence of Problem Gambling
A paper in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, “Mental Health of College Students and Their Non-College-attending Peers” (Carlos Blanco, et al.) has been in the news because of the notable prevalence of substance abuse (around 25%) and personality disorders (approaching 20%) among young adults (age 19-25) in the U.S. that this epidemiological survey found. The face to face interviews of more than 5,000 youth also included other assessments, including of pathological gambling (PG). The prevalence and confidence interval for PG among college students (n-2188) was 0.35 (.14-.88), i.e., about one-third of one percent, and among Not in College (n=2904) youth was 0.23 (.10-.55), i.e., less than one-quarter of one percent.
Letter to the Editor
I am an Irish researcher who is undertaking an analysis of the addictive nature of fixed odds betting terminals which may be introduced here in Ireland.
I was wondering if you had any research already conductive on the addictiveness of such machines within the UK or indeed any country.
I would be grateful if you could contact me if you do have any such material.
Regards and thanks,
Thank you for your interest in the BASIS. In your letter, you propose that fixed odds betting terminals and other machines themselves are addictive. Our research at the Division on Addiction does not subscribe to the view that objects or machines have inherently addictive properties. Instead, we view addiction as a relationship between people and objects within a context that influences the nature of that relationship (Shaffer et al., 2004). With this understanding of addiction, we propose that public health initiatives to create parameters for safer gambling need to address the dynamic relationship between gambling machines, player characteristics, and the context of gambling behavior (Peller, LaPlante, & Shaffer, in press). In addition, we argue that scientists, policymakers, and game operators should base public health interventions for safer gambling on sound scientific research rather than speculation or public opinion.
Our longitudinal research about the Internet betting behavior of more than 40,000 subscribers provides one illustration of the effect of new electronic gambling technology on gambling behavior. Findings from this research suggest an overall pattern of moderate Internet gambling behavior among the vast majority of subscribers (e.g., 2.5 fixed odds sports bets of €4, or approximately $6 US each, every fourth day), and that the most involved bettors can limit their betting behavior. Only approximately 1% of the subscribers wagered and lost disproportionately high amounts (LaBrie, LaPlante, Nelson, Schumann, & Shaffer, 2007). This research presents evidence that Internet gambling is not universally “addictive” for even the majority of subscribers. If gambling technology was the necessary and sufficient cause of addiction, then all (at least most) of those exposed to such a gambling experience would develop problems. Since this is not the case, we must conclude that gambling machines at most contribute a very small portion to the causes of gambling disorders.
-The BASIS staff
To access Division on Addiction research please visit the library and archives on the Division on Addiction website http://www.divisiononaddictions.org/html/library.htm
LaBrie, R. A., LaPlante, D. A., Nelson, S. E., Schumann, A., & Shaffer, H. J. (2007). Assessing the Playing Field: A Prospective Longitudinal Study of Internet Sports Gambling Behavior. Journal of Gambling Studies, 23(3), 347-363.
Peller, A. J., LaPlante, D. A., & Shaffer, H. J. (in press). Parameters for Safer Gambling Behavior: Examining the Empirical Research. Journal of Gambling Studies.
Shaffer, H. J., LaPlante, D. A., LaBrie, R. A., Kidman, R. C., Donato, A., & Stanton, M. V. (2004). Toward a syndrome model of addiction: Multiple expressions, common etiology. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 12, 367-374.