The Role of Gambling Antecedents in the ALSPAC Cohort Study

Gambling involves risking something of value (money, property or possessions) on an event with a random element where instances of strategy are discounted. It is often portrayed as fun, exciting and glamorous in the media and can be considered a form of entertainment. However, gambling can also be harmful. There is a risk that some people will become addicted to gambling. This is known as gambling disorder and can be a serious mental health issue. It is important to be aware of the risks and to seek help if needed.

Gamblers engage in a variety of regulated and non-regulated activities, from playing card games, dice, sports betting and lottery to using online casinos and scratchcards. Regulated activities include games of chance such as poker, slot machines and bingo. People can also bet on a wide range of events including horse races, football accumulators and elections. In addition, people can gamble on virtual sports such as virtual racing and casino games. People can also place bets on business, insurance or stock markets, although these are not usually regulated by governments.

Despite the wide range of different types of gambling, most people are unaware that they may be at risk of developing a gambling problem. Approximately 1% of people develop a gambling disorder and, for these individuals, it can have devastating effects on their lives. For those who do not suffer from a gambling disorder, sub-clinical gambling problems are common and can have negative impacts on their health, relationships, work and social life.

People gamble for a variety of reasons, from boredom to stress, depression or grief. For some, gambling can be a way to interact with friends and colleagues in a social setting, especially in bars and restaurants. Others may view it as a way to escape from reality and to be surrounded by music, sights and smells. The media portrays gambling as a glamorous and exciting activity and is attractive to young people.

The present study used the ALSPAC cohort which provides a unique opportunity to examine the role of various antecedents in gambling behavior over time. The cohort is representative of a wide variety of social, economic and psychological characteristics across a range of environments from inner city to semi-rural in one geographical area. The children self-report their gambling and parental activities independently, so this allows for a rich investigation of the impact of these factors on gambling behaviours over time.

The results showed that the prevalence of regular gambling increased from around 10% at age 17 years to around 18% at age 20 years and then remained relatively stable at 24 years. Amongst those who reported gambling, the most frequent forms of gambling were playing scratchcards and private betting with friends and online gambling on sporting and entertainment events. A fully adjusted model indicated that individual antecedents associated with regular gambling included being male, having a low IQ, having an external locus of control and high sensation seeking scores. Due to missing data on a number of antecedents and the large loss to follow-up, multiple imputation was used in the analyses.