Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Gender, Age, Ethnic and Occupational Associations with Pathological Gambling in a New Zealand Urban Sample

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Gender, Age, Ethnic and Occupational Associations with Pathological Gambling in a New Zealand Urban Sample

Article excerpt

Demographic associations with pathological gambling are usually based on findings with population samples which include less serious problem gamblers. The present study examined the relative contribution of risk factors for pathological gambling in selected ethnic groups. A questionnaire which included the DSM-IV-TR symptoms of pathological gambling was completed by 345 South Auckland adults. Approximately 92% gambled and 38% of the gamblers met the criterion of at least five symptoms for current probable pathological gambling. Ethnicity and the interaction between gender and ethnicity were significant predictors of pathological gambling, after controlling for regular gambling, number of favourite continuous gambling activities, gender, age and occupation. Males and females were equivalently at high risk in New Zealand European and Maori groups, but not in the Pacific or Asian groups where males were at greater risk. The findings should be treated with caution owing to the non-representative nature of the sample. They suggest, however, that further research, including prospective investigation, is warranted to advance understanding of the development of problem gambling in different ethnic groups.


In 2004 we were contracted by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) to develop a methodology to study why people start and continue gambling in New Zealand (Tse et al., 2005). This investigation included a survey of gamblers and problem gamblers resident in South Auckland. A particular focus was on why some regular gamblers become problem gamblers. General population prevalence rates for serious current problem gambling (pathological gambling) typically range from 0.5 to 3.0 percent (Abbott & Volberg, 1999; 2000; Abbott, Volberg, Bellringer & Reith, 2004).

From a public health perspective, pathological gambling is considered not only as a product of biological and behavioural dimensions, but also as a product of broader population-level factors such as ethnicity and employment (Korn & Shaffer, 1999; Shaffer & Korn, 2002; Volberg, 1994). With small numbers of people classified as pathological gamblers in population surveys, it has been difficult for researchers to determine the relationships between risk factors and their relative importance in relation to pathological gambling.

Typically pathological and less serious problem gamblers have been grouped together. The demographic characteristics of pathological gamblers have also been examined in clinical samples (Ladouceur, Sylvain, Boutin, & Doucet, 2002). In these situations it is unclear how representative they are of serious problem gamblers in the general population (Abbott et al., 2004). Because our South Auckland respondents included a large number of probable pathological gamblers (38% of 317 gamblers), we decided to examine more closely the relative influence of demographic factors on the probability of being classified as a pathological gambler. Gender, age, ethnicity and occupation were included in the analysis, after controlling for regular and continuous gambling behaviour.

Definitions of Problem and Pathological Gambling

There is substantial international and Aotearoa/New Zealand literature on risk factors for problem gambling (Abbott & Volberg, 1999). Problem gambling is typically defined by respondents endorsing three or more symptoms on measures such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV-TR; 2000), within the category of disorders of impulse control. Probable pathological gambling is defined by five or more symptoms. The inclusion of "probable" is to distinguish respondents from pathological gamblers identified in clinical interviews (Abbott, 2001). The defining diagnostic characteristics (p. 674) include (1) a continuous or periodic loss of control over gambling; (2) a progression, in gambling frequency and amounts wagered, in the preoccupation with gambling and in obtaining money with which to gamble; and (3) continuation of gambling involvement despite adverse consequences. …

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