Gambling, disordered gambling and their association with major depression and substance use: A web-based cohort and twin-sibling study


Background: Relatively little is known about the environmental and genetic contributions to gambling frequency and disordered gambling (DG), the full continuum of gambling-related problems that includes pathological gambling (PG). Method: A web-based sample (n = 43 799 including both members of 609 twin and 303 sibling pairs) completed assessments of number of lifetime gambling episodes, DSM-IV criteria for PG, alcohol, nicotine and caffeine intake, and nicotine dependence (ND) and DSM-III-R criteria for lifetime major depression (MD). Twin modeling was performed using Mx. Results: In the entire cohort, symptoms of DG indexed a single dimension of liability. Symptoms of DG were weakly related to caffeine intake and moderately related to MD, consumption of cigarettes and alcohol, and ND. In twin and sibling pairs, familial resemblance for number of times gambled resulted from both familial-environmental (c2 = 42%) and genetic factors (a2 = 32%). For symptoms of DG, resemblance resulted solely from genetic factors (a2 = 83%). Bivariate analyses indicated a low genetic correlation between symptoms of DG and MD (ra = +0.14) whereas genetic correlations with DG symptoms were substantially higher with use of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, and ND (ranging from +0.29 to +0.80). The results were invariant across genders. Conclusions: Whereas gambling participation is determined by shared environmental and genetic factors, DG constitutes a single latent dimension that is largely genetically determined and more closely related to externalizing than internalizing behaviors. Because these findings are invariant across genders, they suggest that the etiological factors of DG are likely to be similar in men and women.

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