Risk of harm among gamblers in the general population as a function of level of participation in gambling activities

Abstract

AIMS:
To examine the relationship between gambling behaviours and risk of gambling-related harm in a nationally representative population sample.

DESIGN:
Risk curves of gambling frequency and expenditure (total amount and percentage of income) were plotted against harm from gambling.

SETTING:
Data derived from 19012 individuals participating in the Canadian Community Health Survey—Mental Health and Well-being cycle, a comprehensive interview-based survey conducted by Statistics Canada in 2002.

MEASUREMENT:
Gambling behaviours and related harms were assessed with the Canadian Problem Gambling Index.

FINDINGS:
Risk curves indicated the chances of experiencing gambling-related harm increased steadily the more often one gambles and the more money one invests in gambling. Receiver operating characteristic analysis identified the optimal limits for low-risk participation as gambling no more than two to three times per month, spending no more than $501–1000CAN per year on gambling and investing no more than 1% of gross family income on gambling activities. Logistic regression modelling confirmed a significant increase in the risk of gambling-related harm (odds ratios ranging from 2.0 to 7.7) when these limits were exceeded.

CONCLUSIONS:
Risk curves are a promising methodology for examining the relationship between gambling participation and risk of harm. The development of low-risk gambling limits based on risk curve analysis appears to be feasible.

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