The association between pathological gambling and suicidality in treatment-seeking pathological gamblers in South Africa


A number of studies have noted a significant association between suicidality and pathological gambling (PG), but the exact relationship has not been extensively characterized. It is unclear whether gambling precipitates suicidality, or whether underlying psychiatric problems, such as mood disturbances, lead to both gambling and suicidality. Furthermore, all published data on the association between suicidality and gambling is from high-income countries, and the nature of this relationship in low- and middle-income countries, such as South Africa, has not been explored.

The relationship between gambling and suicidality was investigated in individuals who had called the South African National Responsible Gambling Programme’s helpline. Associations between sociodemographic factors, severity of gambling symptoms, comorbid psychiatric disorders, family history of psychiatric disorders, and suicidality were assessed.

Data indicated that suicidality in PG is associated with sociodemographic factors (female sex, being unmarried, and unemployment), clinical factors (severity of gambling, personal history of comorbid psychiatric disorders, particularly depression), and a family history of psychiatric disorders.

A knowledge of risk factors for suicidality is important when assessing and counselling individuals who have PG, and may be a useful tool in preventing suicidal behaviors. This study provides additional evidence that treatment of PG should include a focus on comorbid psychiatric illnesses.

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