Risk factors for suicide ideation and attempts among pathological gamblers

Abstract

The link between pathological gambling and suicide is poorly understood. The current study has two major goals: to provide descriptive information about suicide ideation and attempts among pathological gamblers trying to quit, and to identify predictors of suicidal ideation and attempts, with a particular emphasis on mood and substance use disorders. A community sample of 101 individuals with gambling problems who had made a recent quit attempt was assessed using structured instruments. Of these, 28.7% reported no history of suicide ideation or attempts, 38.6% reported having only thoughts of suicide, and 32.7% reported a suicide attempt. Ideation predated the onset of gambling problems by an average of greater than ten years. History of ideation was increasingly likely with a greater severity of gambling problem as determined by DSM criteria. Those experiencing ideation were also more likely to over gamble on gambling days and five times more likely to have a history of depression. Substance abuse history was the only factor that distinguished between individuals who had a history of suicide attempts versus ideation only. Having a drug history was related to a more than six times greater likelihood of having made a suicide attempt. Gambling-related suicide attempts were relatively rare-- 21.2% of attempters, or 7% of the total sample. These findings are consistent with the common factor model of etiology in which the suicidality of gambling is related to prior mental health disorders. More research on the relationship between alcohol and other drug disorders and their complex relationship to pathological gambling and suicide is crucial.

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