Vulnerable Populations for Gambling Problems

| August 27, 2013

There are certain populations which are considered more at risk for developing gambling problems.  These groups are commonly identified as youth, athletes, older adults, ethnic minorities, and persons with a history of substance abuse or mental health issues.  Click
the links to learn more about how these groups are considered more at risk for problem gambling behaviors. Youth and college/young adult populations are known to be at higher risk; please see our special sections on these population groups.

People with a history of alcohol or other drug abuse

  • About one in three (32%) problem gamblers in Oregon’s gambling treatment system experience alcohol-related problems (Oregon Health Authority, 2013)
  • One in ten (10%) problem gamblers in Oregon’s gambling treatment system experience drug-related problems (Oregon Health Authority, 2013)
  • Problem drinkers were shown in one study to be 23 times more likely to have a gambling problem than persons without a drinking problem (Welte et al., 2001)
  • Disordered (pathological or problem) gamblers had 7 times the rate of alcohol dependence than nongamblers and low-risk gamblers (NORC, 1999)
  • A 1999 study (Pasternak & Fleming, 1999) revealed that almost one in every three persons with a gambling problem also abused alcohol (compared to about one in ten without gambling problems)
  • The same study (Pasternak & Fleming) showed almost twice as many problem gamblers used tobacco compared with those without gambling problems

People with a history of mental health issues

  • Almost one in two problem gamblers in Oregon’s gambling treatment system (48%) report suicidal thoughts (Oregon Health Authority, 2013)
  • Individuals with concurrent psychiatric problems display much higher rates of disordered gambling than either adolescents or adults sampled from the general population (Shaffer et al., 1997)
  • There are strong associations between disordered gambling and depression (Becona, Del Carmen Lorenzo, & Fuentes, 1996)
  • High rates of personality disorders (e.g., obsessive-compulsive, avoidant, schizotypal and paranoid) are noted in the research (NORC, 1999)

Ethnic minorities

  • Minority populations in Oregon most likely have much higher rates of disordered gambling than Caucasians (Moore, Jadlos, & Carlson, 2000, as cited in Moore, 2001a)
  • Minorities in Oregon spend about two and a half times more on gambling in a typical month than Caucasians  (Moore, 2001a)
  • With the exception of Asians, ethnic minority groups are over-represented in Oregon among individuals classified as problem gamblers
    (Moore, 2001a)

Older adults

  • The rate of problem gambling among Oregonian adults ages 65 and over is 1.2%, lower than any other age group in Oregon (Moore, 2001b); however, older adults who play at gambling facilities are six times more likely to be problem gamblers than other older adults randomly chosen from the same community, and 3.7 times as likely to be
    probable pathological gamblers (McNeilly & Burke, 2000)
  • Older adults are considered at increased risk due to factors unique to that population, such as loneliness, isolation, physical or mental illness; additionally, in one study of older adults, the most likely reported motivations to gamble were: relaxation, boredom, passing time, and getting away for the day (McNeilly & Burke, 2000)
  • Among adults over 65 years of age, gambling is the most frequently identified social activity (McNeilly & Burke, 2001)
  • From 1975 to 1997, the number of American adults 65 years of age or older that had ever gambled increased by 45% (NORC, 1999)
  • Some older adults may have cognitive impairment that interferes with their ability to make sound decisions
  • Many older adults may not understand addiction, making them less likely to identify a gambling problem; additionally, older adults appear less willing to seek assistance for a gambling problem than younger adults
  • There is also concern that gambling-related problems may be more difficult to identify because of increased isolation from co-workers, friends and family

Category: Problem Gambling

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