Gambling Prevalence at Three Stages of Life


Gambling involves risking money or other items of value to predict the outcome of a game of chance, such as betting on sports or playing cards. If you win, you receive a prize. If you lose, you forfeit the amount you have bet. The risk of gambling can lead to addiction and can have a negative impact on relationships and work performance. Some people may find gambling as an escape or way to relieve boredom, loneliness, grief or anxiety.

The prevalence of gambling peaks at age 22-30 and is higher in males than females. The pattern of gambling prevalence follows a similar curve to that of alcohol use. It is also more prevalent in lower socioeconomic status (SES) families than in higher SES ones. A number of factors influence the likelihood of gambling, including genetic risk, family history of gambling, demographic characteristics and developmental traits such as impulsivity. To fully understand the nature of these influences, it is necessary to investigate how gambling behaviour changes over time, and this requires a longitudinal cohort study with detailed demographic and environmental information on participants. The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) meets these requirements and has collected a wealth of data on young people at the ages of 17, 20 and 24 years. This paper summarises ALSPAC respondents’ reported gambling activities at these three stages of life and investigates the individual, familial and environmental antecedents of regular gambling. It also analyses whether the onset of gambling is associated with an increase in risk-taking and behavioural problems.