Men and women gamble for different reasons, Yale researchers report

October 12, 2001

Male gamblers are more likely than female gamblers to report addictive behavior related to strategic or "face-to-face" forms of gambling such as blackjack or poker, Yale researchers report in a new study published in the September issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry.

The study also showed that female gamblers are more likely to report problems with nonstrategic, less interpersonal forms of gambling, such as slot machines or bingo. The differences observed in the study could lead to more targeted treatments for gambling addiction based on gender.

"We've found that the differences in the underlying motivations to gamble and in problems generated by excessive gambling are gender related," said the study's lead investigator, Marc N. Potenza, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and director of the Problem Gambling Clinic at Yale. "These results show that new strategies may be necessary to maximize treatment efficacy for men and women with gambling problems."

The study authors examined the characteristics of male and female gamblers who called the Connecticut Council on Gambling's helpline in 1998 and 1999. Of the 562 calls used in the analyses, about 62% were from male callers and 38% were from female callers. Gender-related differences were observed in reported patterns of gambling, gambling-related problems such as borrowing and indebtedness, legal situations, suicidal thoughts and acts, and mental health difficulties.

In addition to gender preferences for types of gambling, researchers found that female gamblers were more likely to report receiving nongambling-related mental health treatment, and 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.
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Other researchers on the study include Marvin A. Steinberg, Susan D. MaLaughlin, Ran Wu, Bruce C. Rounsaville, M.D., and Stephanie S. O'Malley.

The study was funded by a Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression; a Drug Abuse Research Scholar Program in Psychiatry Award from the American Psychiatric Association and the National Institute on Drug Abuse; a grant from the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse; and grants from the National Center for Responsible Gaming; the Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Illness Research, Educational and Clinical Center; the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation; the Mohegan Sun Casino; and the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction.

Yale University

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