13 May 2008

Problem gambling and the youth

An estimated 750,000 American teens and young adults are problem gamblers according to researchers at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions.

An estimated 750,000 American teens and young adults are problem gamblers according to researchers at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions.

Problem gambling is defined as gambling associated with three or more negative consequences, such as gambling more than you intended or stealing money to gamble.

The national telephone survey of almost 2 300 respondents, ages 14 to 21, found that 2.1 percent were problem gamblers, which works out to a nationwide total of about 750 000 young problem gamblers, the researchers said.

They also found that 11 percent of respondents gambled twice a week or more - considered frequent gambling - and that 68 percent of respondents said they'd gambled at least once in the past year.

The findings of the survey, conducted from August 2005 through January 2007, are available online and were expected to be published in the June 2008 issue of the Journal of Gambling Studies.

Gambling involvement increases with age
"In a society where young people are increasingly exposed to gambling influences, there is cause for concern," principal investigator John W. Welte said.

"As might be expected, all statistically significant results showed that greater gambling involvement is associated with ageing into an adult status. In fact, gambling may be associated with the transition into adulthood," said Welte, a senior research scientist at the Research Institute on Addictions.

How this compares to South Africa
Yet, according to the National Prevalence Study on gambling and problem gambling in South Africa, carried out and reported on by the National Responsible Gambling Programme (NRGP), the results in 2005/6 showed that 'the proportion of the sample, identified as problem gamblers on the basis of answering affirmatively more than one third of the Gamblers Anonymous (GA) 20 Questions, has declined since 2003 from 6.8% to 4.8%'.

It also found that in 2003, compared with 2001, the overall problem gambling numbers grew from 4.2% to 4.8% overall - but this increase they said was entirely due to an increase in the numbers of lottery - only players who showed up as problem gamblers on the GA screen. "The number of problem gamblers amongst those who engage in other forms of gambling such as betting and going to casinos, whether or not they also play the lottery, remained constant between 2001 and 2003," the report stated.

Dr Roger Meyer, Medical Director of the NRGP said that according to available reports, problem gambling in South Africa is not much different from anywhere else in the world where gambling has been legalised.

The industry has expanded and technology has changed the availability of casino's and gambling points, but according to our stats, the number of people using our treatment line and seeking counselling through us is stable," he said.

He added that while the NRGP refered roughly 130 people a month for treatment across the country, this did not mean that there were only 130 with a problem with gambling, rather that this was the number of people seeking out the NRGP's services.

"Basically the demand for our services hasn't grown despite a growth in the industry, which suggests that the pool of problem gamblers is constant irrespective of the availability of gambling services," he said.

How gambling affects lives
The US study found that gambling increased with major life changes such as getting a job, leaving school, living independently from parents, and marriage. Young people who worked full-time were more likely to gamble, those who weren't in school were more likely to gamble frequently (twice a week or more), and those who lived independently were more likely to gamble and to be problem gamblers.

"As far as gender, it seems likely that females' gambling involvement tends to emerge in adulthood, while male involvement can be high in adolescence. We found identical problem gambling rates for adult males and young males (four percent). We found adult females' gambling rates were much higher (three percent) than that of young females (less than one-tenth of a percent). In other words, problem gambling is almost non-existent among female adolescents and young adults," Welte said.

Among the other findings:

  • Black youth were less likely to have gambled than white youth. But if black youth gambled, they were more likely to be frequent gamblers - 30 percent vs. 12 percent.
  • Asians had the lowest gambling involvement.
  • Native Americans were more likely than whites to be frequent gamblers (28 percent vs. 9 percent) and were more likely to score higher on measures of problem gambling. This may be a reflection of the rapid spread of legal gambling on Native American reservations.
  • In general, young people with low socioeconomic status were less likely to gamble. However, if they did gamble, they were more likely to be problem gamblers.
  • Young people in the highest socioeconomic groups had the lowest gambling involvement, the survey found.

(HealthDay News, National Responsible Gambling Programme, May 2008)

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