A cross-sectional study of problem gambling and its correlates among college students in South India

Abstract

Background:
In the Western world, a significant portion of college students have gambled. College gamblers have one of the highest rates of problem gambling. To date, there have been no studies on gambling participation or the rates of problem gambling in India.

Aims:
This study evaluated the prevalence of gambling participation and problem gambling in college students in India. It also evaluated demographic and psychosocial correlates of gambling in that population.

Method:
We surveyed 5784 college students from 58 colleges in the district of Ernakulam, Kerala, India, using cluster random sampling. Students completed questionnaires that addressed gambling, substance use, psychological distress, suicidality and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Results:
A total of 5580 completed questionnaires were returned, and while only 1090 (19.5%) college students reported having ever gambled, 415 (7.4%) reported problem gambling. Lotteries were the most popular form of gambling. Problem gamblers in comparison with non-gamblers were significantly more likely to be male, have a part-time job, greater academic failures, higher substance use, higher psychological distress scores, higher suicidality and higher ADHD symptom scores. In comparison with non-problem gamblers, problem gamblers were significantly more likely to have greater academic failures, higher psychological distress scores, higher suicidality and higher ADHD symptom scores.

Conclusions:
This study, the first to look at the prevalence of gambling in India, found relatively low rates of gambling participation in college students but high rates of problem gambling among those who did gamble. Correlates of gambling were generally similar to those noted in other countries. Since 38% of college students who had gambled had a gambling problem, there is a need for immediate public health measures to raise awareness about gambling, and to prevent and treat problem gambling in this population.

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