Examining gender differences for gambling engagement and gambling problems among emerging adults

Abstract

Gambling is fast becoming a public health problem in the United States, especially among emerging adults (18–25 year olds). Since 1995, rates have recently doubled with around 7–11 % of the emerging adult population having problems with gambling {(Shaffer} et al. in Am J Public Health 89(9):1369–1376, 1999 ; Cyders and Smith in Pers Individ Diff 45(6):503–508, 2008 ). Some states have lowered their gambling age to 18 years old; in turn, the gambling industry has recently oriented their market to target this younger population. However, little is known about the gender variation and the factors placing emerging adults at risk for getting engaged and developing problems with gambling. The purpose of the study was to determine the risk factors accounting for gender differences at the two levels of gambling involvement: engagement and problems. Mediation analyses revealed that impulsive coping and risk-taking were significant partial mediators for gender differences on engagement in gambling. Men took more risks and had lower levels of impulsive coping than women, and those who took more risks and had lower levels of impulsive coping were more likely to engage in gambling. Risk-taking and social anxiety were the significant mediators for gender differences in problems with gambling. Men took more risks and were more socially anxious than women, and greater risk-taking and more socially anxious individuals tended to have more problems with gambling. Implications for counseling preventions and intervention strategies are discussed.

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