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      Beyond description: Understanding gender differences in problem gambling

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          Background and aims

          Though women make up roughly one third of all problem gamblers, research has typically focused on male problem gamblers. Recent research has started to shift its attention toward the importance of gender. However, studies rarely attempt to understand gender differences in problem gambling or subject these differences to thorough multivariate analyses. To address some of the gaps in our knowledge of gender differences, we examine whether patterns of gambling behavior and psychological factors mediate the relationship between gender and problem gambling.


          We use logistic multiple regression to analyze two large Canadian datasets — the 2005 Ontario Prevalence Survey and the 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey.


          Variables found to mediate the relationship between gender and problem gambling are the type(s) of game(s) played (in the 2005 Ontario Prevalence Survey) and the number of games played (in the 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey).


          Men are more likely to be problem gamblers than women, and this gender difference is understandable in terms of differences in patterns of gambling behavior. We conclude that men experience problems because they play riskier games and women experience problems because they prefer chance-based games, which are associated with significantly higher odds of problem gambling. We specify the three main ways that women's reasons for gambling — to escape or for empowerment - translate into chance-based games.

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          Most cited references 28

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          Gender-related differences in the characteristics of problem gamblers using a gambling helpline.

          The characteristics of male and female gamblers utilizing a gambling helpline were examined to identify gender-related differences. The authors performed logistic regression analyses on data obtained in 1998-1999 from callers to a gambling helpline serving southern New England. Of the 562 phone calls used in the analyses, 349 (62.1%) were from male callers and 213 (37.9%) from female callers. Gender-related differences were observed in reported patterns of gambling, gambling-related problems, borrowing and indebtedness, legal problems, suicidality, and treatment for mental health and gambling problems. Male gamblers were more likely than female gamblers to report problems with strategic or "face-to-face" forms of gambling, e.g., blackjack or poker. Female gamblers were more likely to report problems with nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling, e.g., slot machines or bingo. Female gamblers were more likely to report receiving nongambling-related mental health treatment. Male gamblers were more likely to report a drug problem or an arrest related to gambling. High rates of debt and psychiatric symptoms related to gambling, including anxiety and depression, were observed in both groups. Individuals with gambling disorders have gender-related differences in underlying motivations to gamble and in problems generated by excessive gambling. Different strategies may be necessary to maximize treatment efficacy for men and for women with gambling problems.
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            Sex differences in subclinical and DSM-IV pathological gambling: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

            To examine sex differences in DSM-IV subclinical and pathological gambling in nationally representative data of the US population. Data come from a large (n = 43093) representative sample of the adult US population. The lifetime prevalence rate of DSM-IV pathological gambling was 0.64% (95% CI 0.50-0.78) for men and 0.23% (95% CI 0.17-0.29) for women, whereas the lifetime prevalence of subclinical pathological gambling was 6.79% (95% CI 6.32-7.26) for men and 3.26% (95% CI 2.93-3.59) for women. For subclinical pathological gambling, men were significantly (p < 0.01) more likely than women to have smoked more than two packs of cigarettes a day, to be classified as heavy drinkers and to have lifetime diagnoses of alcohol and drug use disorders. Women with subclinical and pathological gambling were significantly more likely than men to have lifetime mood and anxiety disorders. With respect to pathological gambling, women had later ages of onset of the disorder, and were significantly more likely than men to report gambling to relieve depressed mood and to prefer casino gambling. Rates of treatment-seeking for DSM-IV pathological gambling were low for both men and women. There are important sex differences in the prevalence, symptom pattern, sociodemographic and clinical correlates and course of DSM-IV subclinical and pathological gambling. Results underscore the need to investigate sex differences in the social determinants, neurobiology and treatment response of DSM-IV subclinical and pathological gambling.
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              Gender differences in the associations between past-year gambling problems and psychiatric disorders.

              Psychiatric disorders frequently co-occur with pathological gambling. The extent to which co-occurence extends to subsyndromal levels of gambling or differs between women and men is incompletely understood. To examine whether the association between psychiatric disorders and past-year gambling problems is stronger in women than men. Data from the national epidemiological survey of alcoholism and related disorders (NESARC) (n = 43,093) were analyzed. Increasing severity of past-year gambling problems was associated with increasing odds of most past-year Axis I and lifetime Axis II disorders, regardless of gender. Associations between gambling problems and major depression, dysthymia, panic disorder, and nicotine dependence were statistically stronger in women than in men. A severity-related association exists between past-year gambling problems and psychiatric disorders. The stronger associations in women suggest that gambling research, prevention and treatment efforts consider gender differences.

                Author and article information

                Journal of Behavioral Addictions
                Akadémiai Kiadó, co-published with Springer Science+Business Media B.V., Formerly Kluwer Academic Publishers B.V.
                1 September 2012
                : 1
                : 3
                : 123-134
                [ 1 ] Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
                [ 2 ] Department of Psychiatry, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Canada
                [ 3 ] Department of Sociology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
                [ 4 ] Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, 725 Spadina Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 2J4
                Author notes
                [* ] +1-705-526-6742, +1-416-978-3963, sasha.stark@
                © 2012 The Author(s)

                Open Access statement. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author and source are credited, a link to the CC License is provided, and changes – if any – are indicated.

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