Gamblers more likely to have suffered childhood traumas, research shows

August 2, 2017, University of Lincoln
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Men with problem and pathological gambling addictions are more likely to have suffered childhood traumas including physical abuse or witnessing violence in the home, according to new research.

Psychologists examined responses in a survey of more than 3,000 men on a variety of life factors, and found that just over a quarter who had probable pathological had witnessed violence in the home as a child. Ten per cent also reported being physically abused in , and a further seven per cent said they had suffered a life-threatening injury.

Problem gamblers - those who have not yet escalated to a pathological problem, but are deemed to have a more serious addiction than non- - also reported higher rates of childhood trauma, with just under 23 per cent saying they had witnessed violence at home, and nine per cent experiencing . In comparison, just eight per cent of non-problem gamblers witnessed domestic violence when they were a child, and less than four per cent had suffered abuse.

The study, led by the University of Lincoln, UK, also found that 35 per cent of pathological gamblers had suffered serious money problems as adults, 29 per cent had been convicted of a criminal offence, and almost 20 per cent had experienced relationship breakdowns. In comparison, for non-problem gamblers the figures came in at just 12, 9, and 10 per cent respectively.

The pattern of people who had previously suffered traumas in childhood or stressful events as an adult becoming pathological and problem gamblers remained even when other associated risk factors, such as substance abuse and homelessness, were accounted for. Interestingly, the more serious the gambling problem, the higher the percentage of reported or life stressors as an adult in all but two questions.

Researchers say the findings highlight a need for gambling treatment services to include routine screening for traumatic life events or substance abuse, so that treatments can be better tailored.

Forensic psychologist Dr Amanda Roberts, from the University of Lincoln's School of Psychology, led the study. She said: "The links between gambling problems, trauma and life stressors have been known to exist for some time, but understanding the extent of these relationships will help early intervention and better treatment.

"We have found that among men in the United Kingdom, disordered gambling remains uniquely associated with and life stressors in childhood and adulthood after adjusting for alcohol and drug dependence.

"Probable and problem gamblers reported injuries, marital difficulties, homelessness, money problems and criminality more often than non/non-problem gamblers. Taken as a whole, this suggests that disordered gambling does not occur on its own, but that it is perhaps symptomatic of other social, behavioural and psychological problems of some individuals.

"General experiences of , such as job loss or homelessness in adulthood are not usually characterised by the same extreme psychological responses; this distinction is important, since associations with traumatic events might indicate increased vulnerability to developing gambling problems, while associations with other types of stressful life event, such as job loss, might indicate consequential harms associated with gambling."

The results build on Dr Roberts' previous study which found that men who gamble are more likely to act violently towards others, with the most addicted gamblers the most prone to serious violence.

The new findings have been published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

Explore further: Gamblers more prone to violent behavior

More information: Amanda Roberts et al, Gambling and negative life events in a nationally representative sample of UK men, Addictive Behaviors (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.07.002

Related Stories

Gamblers more prone to violent behavior

September 6, 2016
Men who gamble are more likely to act violently towards others, with the most addicted gamblers the most prone to serious violence, new research has shown.

Anticipation helps pathological gamblers hold out for larger-but-later rewards

June 5, 2017
Triggering pathological gamblers to envision a future personal experience reduces their preference for an immediate reward over a larger, delayed award, according to a study published in eNeuro.

Discovery opens up new treatments for problem gamblers

January 3, 2017
After looking at images of slot machines and roulette, problem gamblers experience increased activity in the same part of the brain that lights up when drug addicts have cravings, according to a new UBC psychology study.

Chasing the pot of gold: Researchers study gambling subtypes and treatment outcomes

March 15, 2011
Approximately two million adults in the United States meet criteria for pathological gambling, and another four to six million are considered problem gamblers, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. A study ...

Better info needed for gamblers on self exclusion

June 6, 2016
A study into a process used for minimising harm for problem gamblers has found little information in the community about self-exclusion or how people can access it.

New study finds losing family more important than money when it comes to problem gambling messages

October 22, 2015
Advertising messages outlining social consequences of problem gambling tend to be more effective than those that show the loss of material possessions or money, says a new report from the University of Melbourne.

Recommended for you

Quitting junk food produces similar withdrawal-type symptoms as drug addiction

September 20, 2018
If you plan to try and quit junk food, expect to suffer similar withdrawal-type symptoms—at least during the initial week—like addicts experience when they attempt to quit using drugs.

Low academic achievement can lead to drug abuse decades later, research finds

September 13, 2018
A Virginia Commonwealth University researcher has found that poor academic achievement can lead to substance abuse. Data collected from Swedish participants over a period of 15 to 20 years indicate a strong correlation.

Cocaine addiction traced to increase in number of orexin neurons

September 12, 2018
A study in cocaine-addicted rats reports long-lasting increases in the number of neurons that produce orexin—a chemical messenger important for sleep and appetite—that may be at the root of the addiction. The study, performed ...

Single-step nasal spray naloxone easiest to deliver according to new research

August 29, 2018
Single-step nasal spray naloxone is the easiest to deliver, according to new research led by faculty at Binghamton University, State University at New York.

Scientists identify 35 genes associated with cannabis use

August 28, 2018
A large-scale genetic study found that some of the same genes associated with the use of cannabis are also associated with certain personality types and psychiatric conditions. The study, published in Nature Neuroscience, ...

SMURF1 provides targeted approach to preventing cocaine addiction relapse

August 14, 2018
A class of proteins that has generated significant interest for its potential to treat diseases, has for the first time, been shown to be effective in reducing relapse, or drug-seeking behaviors, in a preclinical study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.