Problem gambling among Ontario students: Associations with substance abuse, mental health problems, suicide attempts, and delinquent behaviours


This paper describes gambling problems among Ontario students in 2009 and examines the relationship between gambling problems and substance use problems, mental health problem indicators, and delinquent behaviors. Data were derived from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey of Ontario students in grades 7-12. Gambling problems were measured as 2 or more of 6 indicators of problem gambling. In total 2.8 % of the students surveyed endorsed two or more of the problem gambling items. The odds of problem gamblers reporting mental distress was 4.2 times higher than the rest of the sample and the odds of problem gamblers reporting a suicide attempt were 17.8 times greater than the rest of the sample. In addition compared to the rest of the students, delinquent behaviors were also more common among problem gamblers, including theft (OR = 14.5), selling marijuana (OR = 19.6), gang fights (OR = 11.3) and carrying a handgun (OR = 11.2). In a multivariate analysis, substance-use problems, mental health problems, and the participation in a variety of delinquent behaviors remained significantly associated with youth problem gambling behavior. Students who report problem gambling behaviors show increased substance abuse, mental health, and delinquency/criminal problems that are similar to those seen among adult problem gamblers. The association between these problems suggests that these problems could be addressed in a unified manner.

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