NCRG Conference: What The Research Shows – The Latest On Teen Gambling

A Monday afternoon session during the12th annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addictionfeatured two leading researchers and their most recent studies about youth gambling. Randy Stinchfield, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and associate director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at the University of Minnesota, discussed rates of youth gambling in Minnesota since 1992. Marc Potenza, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry in the child study center and of neurobiology and founding director of the Problem Gambling Clinic at Yale University School of Medicine, presented his findings from a survey of Connecticut youth to understand the factors that can influence teen gambling behavior.

Dr. Stinchfield began the session by stating that this is the first generation of youth to be exposed to ready access to a variety of gambling venues and widespread gambling advertising. He noted that the rapid expansion of gambling has brought on concerns about youth gambling behaviors and problem gambling.

Dr. Stinchfield and his colleagues analyzed data from a survey of 79,323 ninth- and 12th-grade Minnesota students from 1992 to 2010 – one of the few studies that has been able to study teen gambling behavior over an extended time period, including a time point when casinos were built in the state. They aimed to:

  1. Measure current (2010) rates of gambling among Minnesota public school students and compare rates on gender, grade and race
  2. Measure rates of underage gambling
  3. Compare gambling and frequent gambling rates from 1992 to 2010

Results from the survey showed that there has been a significant decline in the percentage of youth who have gambling in the past year, and the lottery showed the most significant decline. Dr. Stinchfield noted that these data do not provide evidence of a youth gambling “epidemic,” but rather show the opposite – that youth gambling is declining.

Dr. Stinchfield hypothesized that this decline could be due to effective prevention efforts or the novelty of gambling wearing off. He also stated that youth now spend their free time on cell phones, iPads and social networking sites rather than gambling.

You can read more about Dr. Stinchfield’s study in thisFebruary 2011 Gambling Disorders 360° post.

Next, Dr. Potenza presented a study titled, “Health/functioning characteristics and gambling behaviors in adolescents stratified by gambling problem severity: Findings from a high-school risk survey.”

Dr. Potenza and his colleagues issued a survey to 4,523 Connecticut high school students that assessed a broad range of risk behaviors. Study participants included public four-year, non-vocational and special education schools in the state, and the sample demographics were consistent with 2000 Census of Connecticut residents aged 14-18 years.

Dr. Potenza and his colleagues concluded that adolescence is a developmental period that is characterized by engaging in risk-raking behaviors. They found an increased problem gambling severity in adolescents who also have problems with substance abuse, depression and aggression.

The researchers also found that a number of factors were associated with at-risk/problem gambling. (For this study, the researchers used the term ‘at-risk’ to describe the specific group, while others call them ‘subclinical’ or ‘low-risk’ gamblers.) Some of the measures were different for people who gambled online and those who did not . For example, significantly more online gamblers had poor academic performance than non-online gamblers. Other measures were significantly different between people with at-risk/problem gambling and low-risk gamblers, but not among online and non-online at-risk/problem gamblers. For example, all people with at-risk/problem gambling had higher rates of dysphoria and depression, but there was no significant difference in rates between online and non-online gamblers.

Dr. Potenza stated that future studies should identify specific personal and environmental vulnerability and resilience factors in order to advance prevention, treatment and policy efforts.

These two researchers were a few of the many insightful talks from the NCRG Conference. Continue to visitGambling Disorders 360°for conference audio interviews from leading researchers and industry representatives.

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