Once a gambler – always a gambler? A longitudinal analysis of gambling patterns in young people making the transition from adolescence to adulthood

Abstract

Although a number of previous studies have speculated about the relationship between adolescent and adult gambling, there is very little prospective longitudinal data available to examine whether under-aged gambling makes a person more likely to gamble as an adult. To investigate this issue, the gambling habits of 578 young people were tracked for four years from mid-adolescence (age 15 years) into adulthood (18-19 years) with standardised participation data collected every year. The results showed that gambling patterns in young people are subject to considerable individual variability. Only 1 in 4 young people who gambled at the age of 15 continued gambling every year and it was rare to find young people whose participation in specific activities was consistent from one year to the next. Participation patterns observed when young people were closer to leaving school were more predictive of adult gambling patterns than those obtained at a young age. The findings emphasise the potential divergence in results that arise from basing conclusions on individual-level and longitudinal analyses as opposed to cross-sectional designs and/or group level analyses. Although a number of previous studies have speculated about the relationship between adolescent and adult gambling, there is very little prospective longitudinal data available to examine whether under-aged gambling makes a person more likely to gamble as an adult. To investigate this issue, the gambling habits of 578 young people were tracked for four years from mid-adolescence (age 15 years) into adulthood (18-19 years) with standardised participation data collected every year. The results showed that gambling patterns in young people are subject to considerable individual variability. Only 1 in 4 young people who gambled at the age of 15 continued gambling every year and it was rare to find young people whose participation in specific activities was consistent from one year to the next. Participation patterns observed when young people were closer to leaving school were more predictive of adult gambling patterns than those obtained at a young age. The findings emphasise the potential divergence in results that arise from basing conclusions on individual-level and longitudinal analyses as opposed to cross-sectional designs and/or group level analyses.

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