Gambling problems in treatment for affective disorders: Results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC)

Sean Cowlishaw, Jahn K Hakes, Nicki Dowling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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BACKGROUND: Gambling problems co-occur frequently with other psychiatric difficulties and may complicate treatment for affective disorders. This study evaluated the prevalence and correlates of gambling problems in a U.S. representative sample reporting treatment for mood problems or anxiety. METHODS: n = 3,007 respondents indicating past-year treatment for affective disorders were derived from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Weighted prevalence estimates were produced and regression analyses examined correlates of gambling problems. RESULTS: Rates of lifetime and past-year problem gambling (3+ DSM-IV symptoms) were 3.1% (95% CI = 2.4-4.0%) and 1.4% (95% CI = 0.9-2.1%), respectively, in treatment for any disorder. Rates of lifetime problem gambling ranged from 3.1% (95% CI = 2.3-4.3%) for depression to 5.4% (95% CI = 3.2-9.0%) for social phobia. Past-year conditions ranged from 0.9% (95% CI = 0.4-2.1%) in dysthymia to 2.4% (95% CI = 1.1-5.3%) in social phobia. Higher levels were observed when considering a spectrum of severity (including ‘at-risk’ gambling), with 8.9% (95% CI = 7.7-10.2%) of respondents indicating a history of any gambling problems (1+ DSM-IV symptoms). Lifetime gambling problems predicted interpersonal problems and financial difficulties, and marijuana use, but not alcohol use, mental or physical health, and healthcare utilisation. LIMITATIONS: Data were collected in 2001-02 and were cross-sectional. CONCLUSIONS: Gambling problems occur at non-trivial rates in treatment for affective disorders and have mainly psychosocial implications. The findings indicate scope for initiatives to identify and respond to gambling problems across a continuum of severity in treatment for affective disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-114
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date26 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • affective disorders
  • anxiety disorders
  • treatment-seeking
  • problem gambling
  • population sample
  • comorbidity

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