New Study Compares Gambling In College And Non-college Attending Young People

How much college students gamble, and to what extent they suffer from gambling disorders, is an area of great concern in the United States. It is well established that college students suffer from high rates of alcohol and other substance use disorders, and do so in larger numbers than demographically similar non-college students. It is also commonly known that alcohol misuse and gambling disorders are similar in many ways; both cause craving and withdrawal symptoms, have similar neurological characteristics and follow similar clinical courses. This fact raises questions about whether gambling disorders may be found in larger numbers in college populations than in non-college populations with similar demographics. To answer this question, researchers at the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo, N.Y., analyzed data from 1,000 representative respondents ages 18-21. Their findings were published in theJournal of American College Health(Barnes, Welte, Hoffman, & Tidwell, 2010).

The researchers analyzed data on the gambling and alcohol-related behaviors of the respondents, including if they had gambled in the past year, if they were a frequent gambler, and if they had a gambling disorder, as well as demographic questions. The researchers found that about three-fourths of college age respondents had gambled in the past year, about one-fourth were “frequent gamblers” (gambling 52 or more times in the past year), and about 6 percent met criteria for problem or pathological gambling. The researchers also compared their findings for the students attending college with those who did not attend, taking into account demographic differences. The results showed that college student status did not predict gambling, frequent gambling, or problem gambling. In contrast, being a college student did predict higher levels of alcohol use and problem drinking.

The strongest predictor of both problem gambling and problem drinking was male gender. Also, whites were found to be more likely to drink heavily than blacks, while blacks were more likely to gamble heavily than whites. Future research should explore treatment opportunities created by the differences in alcohol and gambling problems by gender, race and college attendance.

More information on the article is available on the website of theJournal of American College Health. Do you have thoughts or questions about college gambling? Tell us in the Comments section below.


Barnes, G. M., Welte, J. W., Hoffman, J. H., & Tidwell, M. O. (2010). Comparisons of gambling and alcohol use among college students and noncollege young people in the United States.Journal of American College Health: J of ACH,58(5), 443-452. doi:10.1080/07448480903540499

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