Adolescent Impulses Predict Problem Gambling

New research claims that impulsiveness during adolescence can help to identify those who are most at risk from problem gambling when they get older.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health studied 310 male pupils, mostly of African American ethnicity (87%) and poor socioeconomic circumstances (70%).

They were tracked from first grade (6-7 years old) until late adolescence, and interviewed about their gambling habits at ages 17, 19 and 20.

By age 15, two clear groups had formed in terms of impulsiveness – defined by actions such as blurting out answers in class, interrupting, and being unable to wait for their turn to speak.

Some 41% of the participants were defined as high impulsiveness, with 59% on a ‘lower impulse trajectory’.

Among high-impulse subjects, the likelihood of problem gambling was three times as high in later interviews, and ‘at-risk’ gambling behaviour was twice as prevalent.

“This has important implications and provides clear research support for targeting impulsivity to prevent youth problem gambling,” says assistant professor of epidemiology at the university Dr Silvia Martins.

However, generalisations to a larger population may be difficult due to the socioeconomic, gender and ethnicity restrictions placed on the sample group – making further studies likely before any widespread conclusions can be drawn.

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