Should pathological gambling and obesity be considered addictive disorders? A factor analytic study in a nationally representative sample


Pathological gambling (PG) is now aligned with substance use disorders in the DSM-5 as the first officially recognized behavioral addiction. There is growing interest in examining obesity as an addictive disorder as well. The goal of this study was to investigate whether epidemiological data provide support for the consideration of PG and obesity as addictive disorders.

Factor analysis of data from a large, nationally representative sample of US adults (N=43,093), using nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence, drug dependence, PG and obesity as indicators. It was hypothesized that nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence and drug use dependence would load on a single factor. It was further hypothesized that if PG and obesity were addictive disorders, they would load on the same factor as substance use disorders, whereas failure to load on the addictive factor would not support their conceptualization as addictive disorders.

A model with one factor including nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence, drug dependence and PG, but not obesity, provided a very good fit to the data, as indicated by CFI=0.99, TLI=0.99 and RMSEA=0.01 and loadings of all indicators >0.4.

Data from this study support the inclusion of PG in a latent factor with substance use disorders but do not lend support to the consideration of obesity, as defined by BMI, as an addictive disorder. Future research should investigate whether certain subtypes of obesity are best conceptualized as addictive disorders and the shared biological and environmental factors that account for the common and specific features of addictive disorders.

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