Prevalence of Problem Gambling Among Youths Focus of Study

By Kathleen Weaver

Release Date: June 13, 2003 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Although the recent proliferation of gambling opportunities in the U.S. has been intended for adults, existing research shows that adolescents and young adults are more likely to be classified as problem gamblers than older adults.

Researchers in the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions will be gauging the prevalence of problem gambling among this age group in work funded by a new four-year, $1,827,000 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Their focus will be the prevalence of problem gambling among youths, as well as demographic patterns of gambling and pathological gambling among youths in the U.S., said John W. Welte, Ph.D., lead investigator on the study, who is a senior research scientist at RIA and research associate professor in the Department of Social and Preventative Medicine in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions.

His co-investigator on the project is Grace M. Barnes, Ph.D., RIA senior research scientist and adjunct associate professor in the Department of Sociology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences.

Welte said that approximately 2,500 U.S. residents between the ages of 14 and 21 will be interviewed by telephone for the study. The relationships among gambling and alcohol and tobacco use, and the relationships among gambling pathology, conduct disorder and risky sexual behavior will be examined.

"We will use census data to characterize participants' neighborhoods," Welte added, "and a state-level data set to characterize the permissiveness of each state's gambling laws and the availability of gambling opportunities in that state. This will allow us to identify demographic and regional patterns of gambling behavior and pathology by U.S. youth."

The researchers also will examine how the prevalence of problem gambling changes across the 14-21 age range. The relationship among gambling behavior and pathology and geographic variables, such as permissiveness of state gambling laws and neighborhood social disadvantage, will

be studied. Finally, the researchers will examine the relationship between pathological gambling and substance dependence.

Welte and Barnes, with William F. Wieczorek, Ph.D., of Buffalo State College, were co-investigators on one of the first nationwide studies of the co-occurrence of gambling and substance use among adults in the U.S., conducted from 1999-2000.

The findings showed that gambling is widespread -- and spreading -- in American society, with 82 percent of individuals interviewed having gambled in the past year. Previous surveys found gambling participation at 61 percent (1975) and 63 percent (1998).

The two most common types of gambling identified in the RIA study were lottery (66 percent) and raffles/office pools/charity gambling (48 percent). Twenty-three percent of the individuals interviewed in the current survey gambled weekly or more often. Furthermore, 22 percent of total gambling activity comes from casino gambling, 15 percent is attributed to betting on lotteries, 4 percent to betting at the track, and card games not at a casino or track account for nearly 10 percent.

The results also showed that problem drinkers are 23 times more likely to have a gambling problem than individuals who do not have an alcohol problem.

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.