• Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Is gambling addiction associated with a higher suicide rate?

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  • Image of Julian McNally

    Counselling Psychologist, Psychologist

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    It's hard to be conclusive on this, but it looks like the answer is “probably”.

    The Alfred Hospital emergency department reported that 17% of people presenting following suicide attempts were problem gamblers.

    A 1997 study of residents of and visitors to major American gambling cities ;(Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City) had a higher than expected rate of suicides. This study also showed that in Atlantic City, the higher than expected suicide rate did not occur prior to the introduction of casinos.

    In contrast a study of 148 metropolitan regions in the US showed only a small positive correlation between casino presence and suicide rate. Note though that this study was partially funded by the American Gaming Association.

    A Canadian study in 2003 found a statistically significant odds ratio ;(a measure of likelihood linking one event to another) linking suicide attempts to lifetime pathological gambling. However, when the presence of mental disorders is added to the model the link becomes weaker. Major depression is still the variable most strongly linked to both suicide attempts and pathological gambling. What this research can't tell us is this:

    Is the observed increased rate of suicide attempts associated with pathological gambling because:

    1. Gambling problems produce or aggravate major depression leading to suicide attempts;
    2. People with major depression are prone to develop a gambling problem and then attempt suicide; or,
    3. Each problem develops independently of the other and a lot of suicide attempters have both.
    This isn't a conclusive answer because that's a big question you've asked - worthy of a PhD if you answered it definitively!

    Please email if this answer has helped.


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