Prevalence of psychiatric co-morbidity in treatment-seeking problem gamblers: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Nicki A Dowling, Sean Cowlishaw, Alun C Jackson, Stephanie Merkouris, Kate L Francis, Darren Christensen

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Objective: The aim of this paper was to systematically review and meta-analyse the prevalence of co-morbid psychiatric disorders (DSM-IV Axis I disorders) among treatment-seeking problem gamblers.

Methods: A systematic search was conducted for peer-reviewed studies that provided prevalence estimates of Axis I psychiatric disorders in individuals seeking psychological or pharmacological treatment for problem gambling (including pathological gambling). Meta-analytic techniques were performed to estimate the weighted mean effect size and heterogeneity across studies.

Results: Results from 36 studies identified high rates of co-morbid current (74.8%, 95% CI 36.5–93.9) and lifetime (75.5%, 95% CI 46.5–91.8) Axis I disorders. There were high rates of current mood disorders (23.1%, 95% CI 14.9–34.0), alcohol use disorders (21.2%, 95% CI 15.6–28.1), anxiety disorders (17.6%, 95% CI 10.8–27.3) and substance (non-alcohol) use disorders (7.0%, 95% CI 1.7–24.9). Specifically, the highest mean prevalence of current psychiatric disorders was for nicotine dependence (56.4%, 95% CI 35.7–75.2) and major depressive disorder (29.9%, 95% CI 20.5–41.3), with smaller estimates for alcohol abuse (18.2%, 95% CI 13.4–24.2), alcohol dependence (15.2%, 95% CI 10.2–22.0), social phobia (14.9%, 95% CI 2.0–59.8), generalised anxiety disorder (14.4%, 95% CI 3.9–40.8), panic disorder (13.7%, 95% CI 6.7–26.0), post-traumatic stress disorder (12.3%, 95% CI 3.4–35.7), cannabis use disorder (11.5%, 95% CI 4.8–25.0), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (9.3%, 95% CI 4.1–19.6), adjustment disorder (9.2%, 95% CI 4.8–17.2), bipolar disorder (8.8%, 95% CI 4.4–17.1) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (8.2%, 95% CI 3.4–18.6). There were no consistent patterns according to gambling problem severity, type of treatment facility and study jurisdiction. Although these estimates were robust to the inclusion of studies with non-representative sampling biases, they should be interpreted with caution as they were highly variable across studies.

Conclusions: The findings highlight the need for gambling treatment services to undertake routine screening and assessment of psychiatric co-morbidity and provide treatment approaches that adequately manage these co-morbid disorders. Further research is required to explore the reasons for the variability observed in the prevalence estimates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-539
Number of pages21
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychiatry
Issue number6
Early online date3 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • Gambling
  • systematic review
  • meta-analysis
  • psychiatric disorders
  • co-morbidity

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