Problem gambling in youngsters linked to mental health problems

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (camh) conducted a gambling and social health study on students in grades 7-12, the reports have come up with some very interesting findings with some implications that aren’t all that surprising to gambling industry professionals. The results of the study will be used to make changes to school curriculum to better address several issues.

Here’s some of the key highlights from the study directly from the camh website.

“29,000 Ontario students from grades 7-12 report behaviours indicating that they are gambling problematically.  The study also found that more than two-thirds of these students reported problems with substance use and/or alcohol use, and 25% reported a suicide attempt in the past year.”

Keep in mind that any student engaging in online gambling in grades 7-11 and in some cases 12, is doing so illegally. It’s also not surprising that 2/3 of these students are also engaging in the use of illicit drugs and underage drinking. The study continues.

“The most commonly reported activities among students were betting on card games and purchase of lottery tickets, while the least common were internet gambling and gambling in casinos.”

Most likely the stringent controls and security checks on many of the most popular online gambling sites make them less attractive and less accessible.

Lead investigator, Dr. Robert Mann, Senior Scientist in CAMH’s Social and Epidemiological Research Department said of the study,

“Nearly half of Ontario students report participating in at least one form of gambling, and almost 3% scored 2 or more on a validated screening instrument, indicating that they have a gambling problem.  This represents about 29,000 students in Ontario.”

“We also found that students who reported problem gambling indicators also reported high rates of elevated psychological distress and other potentially dangerous behaviors.” Mann added.

As well, problem gambling students were about 18 times more likely to report a suicide attempt, delinquent behaviors were also common in these students including theft and selling drugs. Additionally, The problem gambling group was 11 times more likely to report involvement in gang fights and carrying a handgun, and were 20 times more likely to report selling drugs other than weed.

Bruce Ballon, Head of CAMH’s Adolescent Clinical and Educational Services said “We know that adolescents who have problems with gambling, gaming and internet use usually have underlying and sometimes undiagnosed mental heath problems.”

I’ve highlighted these results because they are meaningful in the sense that it paints a clear picture of the type of individual who has a gambling problem. It’s not the fact that online gambling is available that is causing problems, rather, and quite clearly, it’s the problems within the individual that lead to obsessive behavior, of which problem gambling but one example. As these studies have shown it’s an overall abuse cycle, including drugs, alcohol, guns, and other things. The truth is, it’s not the drugs that are to blame, it’s not the alcohol, but as stated by Bruce Ballon, the root of these problems is usually an underlying and often undiagnosed mental health problem.