Gambling and Its Clinical Correlates in University Students

19 Apr 2018

Background: This study sought to examine the prevalence of gambling disorder (GD) in a university sample and its associated physical and mental health correlates. Methods: A 156-item anonymous online survey was distributed via random email generation to a sample of 9,449 university students. Current use of alcohol and drugs, psychological and physical status, and academic performance were assessed, along with questionnaire-based measures of impulsivity and compulsivity. Positive screens for GD were based upon individuals meeting DSM-5 criteria. Results: A total of 3,421 participants (59.7% female) were included in the analysis. The overall prevalence of GD was 0.4%, while an additional 8.4% reported subsyndromal symptoms of GD. GD was significantly associated with past-year use of cocaine, heroin/opiate pain medications, sedatives, alcohol, and tobacco. Those with GD were more likely to have generalized anxiety, PTSD, and compulsive sexual behavior. Questionnaire-based measures revealed higher levels of both compulsivity and impulsivity associated with disordered gambling. Conclusion: Some level of gambling symptomatology is common in young adults and is associated with alcohol and drug use, as well as impulsive and compulsive behaviors. Clinicians should be aware of the presentation of problematic gambling and screen for it in primary care and mental health settings.