Genes Play a Role in Problem Gambling

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Genes influence the development of gambling disorders in both men and women, study finds.

The Study

In order to assess the influence of genes on gambling behavior, researchers examined almost 2900 sets of twins in Australia. Nearly all of the participants, who ranged in age from 32 to 43, had gambled at some point in their life. About half of them reported gambling at least once a month, and about a third gambled at least once a week. Approximately 2.2% met established criteria for pathological gambling, with 12.5% of participants reporting at least one symptom of pathological gambling.

Analysis of the study's data found that genetics contributes almost 50% to differences in gambling disorders between people, while shared environmental aspects did not appear to contribute to differences in developing problem gambling. The results were the same for both men and women.

Why Is This Important?

Pathological gambling is one of the few behavioral addictions that is recognized by the DSM-IV, which is the most widely used guide for psychological diagnoses. It is a serious problem for many people, and research has shown that it tends to run in families. It tends to affect men more often than women, so it's quite interesting to see that there is no gender difference in terms of genetic influence. Learning more about the causes of problem gambling behaviors can improve treatment and prevention, and finding an underlying genetic influence adds legitimacy to pathological gambling as a true addiction that requires treatment.

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