The relationship between age of gambling onset and adolescent problematic gambling severity

Abstract

AB The aim of this study was to characterize the association between problem gambling severity and multiple health, functioning and gambling variables in adolescents aged 13-18 stratified by age of gambling onset. Survey data in 1624 Connecticut high school students stratified by age of gambling onset (<11 years vs. >12 years) were analyzed in descriptive analyses and in logistic regression models. Earlier age of onset was associated with problem gambling severity as indexed by a higher frequency of at-risk/problem gambling (ARPG). Most health, functioning and gambling measures were similarly associated with problem gambling severity in the earlier- and later-age-of-gambling-onset groups with the exception of participation in non-strategic forms of gambling, which was more strongly associated with ARPG in the earlier-onset (OR = 1.74, 95%CI = [1.26, 2.39]) as compared to later-onset (OR = 0.94, 95% CI = [0.60, 1.48]) group (Interaction OR = 1.91, 95%CI = [1.18, 3.26]). Post-hoc analysis revealed that earlier-onset ARPG was more strongly associated with multiple forms of non-strategic gambling including lottery (instant, traditional) and slot-machine gambling. The finding that problem gambling severity is more closely associated with multiple non-strategic forms of gambling amongst youth with earlier-onset gambling highlights the relevance of these types of youth gambling. The extent to which non-strategic forms of gambling may serve as a gateway to other forms of gambling or risk behaviors warrants additional study, and efforts targeting youth gambling should consider how best to address non-strategic gambling through education, prevention, treatment and policy efforts.

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