Subgroups At Risk

The identification and modification of risk factors have been hampered by the confusion from the mixed messages the public receives. On the one hand, private and government sponsers of gambling on a large scale encourage gambling. On the other hand, consumers receive strong but less frequent messages that gambling to excess or inappropriate gambling can create addiction and related negative life consequences.

Evidence suggests that certain groups are at risk, such as older people, youth, women, and people with low income. Seniors are gambling more frequently and they are one of the major groups being targeted by casinos in their promotional efforts. There is building evidence that people of low income gamble a higher percent of their income than people with higher income. The rate of problem gambling among women appears to have dramatically increased in the 1990s, growing from a small percentage to more than 25 percent of all identified problem gamblers. Statewide prevalence studies have consistently identified teenagers as having a greater number of problem gamblers than adults in the same states (National Research Council, 1999).

These emerging facts raise many more questions that need to be investigated. For example, although seniors are a vulnerable group because of declining physical heath and mental capacity as well as depression due to loss and isolation, it is not known whether seniors as a whole experience a greater rate of problem gambling than adults in general. Perhaps the social contact available in a gambling environment and the alertness and required in concentration on gambling have positive mental health benefits for seniors? Research with subgroups in the population, especially groups at risk, across a wide range of geographical areas is needed.

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