BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After age 21, problem gambling is considerably
more common among U.S. adults than alcohol dependence, even though
alcohol dependence has received much more attention, according to
researchers at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on
In results published this month in the Journal of Gambling
Studies, John W. Welte, principal investigator on the study and a
national expert on alcohol and gambling pathology, concluded that
there is a distinct inconsistency between his research and much of
the other research literature. Other research supports the
proposition that problem gambling is more common among adolescents
than among adults. Problem gambling has often been described as
rare. Even the National Council on Problem Gambling describes it as
"rare but treatable."
Welte and colleagues conducted, then combined results, from two
national surveys of gambling and alcohol -- one of youth ages 14-21
and the second of adults 18 and older -- to identify patterns of
U.S. gambling and alcohol use across the lifespan. They found that
gambling, frequent gambling and problem gambling increases in
frequency during the teen years, reaches its highest level in the
20s and 30s and then fall off among those over 70.
"No comparable analysis has been done previously and therefore
none is available for a direct comparison of these results," Welte
says. "But, given what we found about the persistence of frequent
and problem gambling through adulthood, increased prevention and
intervention efforts are warranted."
Other results detailed in the article demonstrate that frequent
gambling is twice as great among men (28 percent) as among women
(13 percent). Men reach their highest rates of both any gambling
and frequent gambling in the late teens, while females take longer
to reach their highest rates.
The odds of any gambling in the past year are significantly
higher for whites than for blacks or Asians, although the odds of
frequent gambling are higher for blacks and Native Americans, the
It is also notable that frequent and problem gambling become
more common as socioeconomic status (SES) gets lower; gambling
involvement tends to decline as SES rises. Welte speculated as
early as 2004 that lower SES Americans may pursue gambling as a way
to make money, leading to more difficulties than if their
motivation were strictly recreational.
Welte's first telephone survey of adult gambling was conducted
in 1999-2000 with 2,631 adults from 4,036 households nationwide.
The second survey of youth gambling in 2005-2007 included 2,274
youth -- with parental permission -- from 4,467 households. Both
surveys were conducted with residents drawn from all 50 states and
the District of Columbia. Questions asked of those who agreed to
participate ranged from frequency of drinking, quantity and type of
alcoholic beverage to frequency of past-year gambling and type of
gambling, such as raffles, cards, casinos, sports betting, horse or
dog track, lottery involvement and games of skill.
The UB RIA research team included Grace M. Barnes, senior
research scientist, Marie-Cecile O. Tidwell, project manager, and
Joseph H. Hoffman, statistician. The study was supported by funding
from the National Institute on Mental Health.
The Research Institute on Addictions has been a leader in the
study of addictions since 1970 and a research center of the
University at Buffalo since 1999.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a
member of the Association of American Universities.