Teens, Gambling, and Mental Health

by on

Researchers estimate that between one and three percent of adults in the United States have a gambling problem. We at AMHF believe there is a need to give more attention to this. How many marriages or families are ruined due to addictive or compulsive gambling?

Our society certainly mixes messages to teens: everything from rub-off Lotto cards to off-track betting and casinos offering free food when the teen grows up.

It is difficult to resist the temptation. One research study indicates that four to six percent of youth may already have a serious gambling problem.

To obtain this estimate, the researchers (Winters, Stinchet, Botzet, and Anderson, 2002) used telephone interviews in which they asked teens questions about the age in which they first gambled, the frequency of gambling across eight modes of gambling, and questions about loss of control regarding gambling.

The eight areas include cards, personal skill, betting on sports, scratch tickets, machines, and the lottery.

This form of addiction may be easier for teens to fall into. The steps are barely noticeable. Doesn’t it seem harmless to play poker for nickels? Then why not add dimes and quarters? Soon we are into dollars. Or, who would reprimand someone for betting fifty cents on the Super Bowl?

The line to be drawn on gambling is not as easy to draw as with alcohol or drugs. One either drinks a beer or does not. One either smokes pot or does not. There is more of an either/or situation with these addictions.

In future columns, and perhaps even through funding, we at AMHF hope to make the public aware of the extent of this problem, and to find a way to decrease it and treat it.

For all of us, the next time we win $10 at the gas station or reminisce about that casino vacation, let’s look around to see if we might be a role model for a young person watching us.

Filed under: