The association between compulsory school achievement and problem gambling among Swedish young people

Abstract

Purpose:
We aimed to examine the association between school grades at the age of 16 years and problem gambling at the age of 17e25 years among Swedish females and males.

Methods:
In a cohort design, we followed the 16- to 24-year-old participants in the representative Swedish Longitudinal Gambling Study for 2 years, 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, generating 3,816 person-years of follow-up time. The outcome, incidence of mild and moderate/severe gambling problems, was measured by the Problem Gambling Severity Index in telephone interviews. The exposure was register-linked information about final grades in compulsory school. The association between school grades and problem gambling was estimated in multinomial logistic regressions.

Results:
Low and average school grades were associated with increased incidence of mild and moderate/severe problem gambling compared to high grades, adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics, psychological distress, and alcohol use. Low grades, compared to high grades, were associated with a higher risk of mild gambling problems for adolescent males, whereas the incidence proportion of moderate/severe problem gambling was high for males aged 20e25 years with low grades, among whom unemployment was also very high. Furthermore, we found a strong and graded association between school grades and moderate/severe problem gambling for women in both age groups, despite a low prevalence of gambling participation among females compared to males.

Conclusions:
Our findings show that Swedish youth with low school achievement have an increased risk of gambling problems up to 8 years after school graduation, after control for confounding from sociodemographic characteristics, psychological distress, and alcohol use, and that this association is stronger for females than males.

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