Gambling

Sex and Gender-based Analysis of this topic

Definition
Gambling refers to the wagering of money or something of material value on an uncertain outcome in the hope of winning money or something of material value. Gambling is a widely accepted recreational activity in Canada and is Canada’s largest entertainment industry. While most adults gamble responsibly, some individuals may develop gambling problems. According to the Canadian Problem Gambling Index, problem gambling is defined as gambling behaviour that results in negative consequences to the gambler, his/her social network, and/or the community [1].  

In Canada, gambling behaviour is typically classified using the Canadian Problem Gambling Index (CPGI) which assesses: 1) the extent of one’s involvement in gambling; 2) the severity of problem gambling (ranging from non-problem to problem gambling); and 3) correlates of problem gambling [1]. According to data from the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), the rate of past year gambling participation in Canada was 76%.  Among adults who gamble, 0.5% of the population are considered problem gamblers, 1.5% moderate-risk gamblers, 2.8% low-risk gamblers, and 71% non-problem gamblers [2]. 
 
 
Sex Issues
Evidence suggests that problem gambling among males is related to higher rates of impulsivity [3-5]. Unlike in males, female problem gambling has been associated with negative emotional states. Psychiatric morbidities include anxiety and depressive disorders [6,7], alcohol and substance abuse [8,9], and cigarette smoking [7, 10]. Specifically, depression may be a risk factor for the onset of problem gambling in women [11]. Physical ailments related to stress and anxieties, such as hypertension, peptic ulcer disease, and migraines have also been documented among problem gamblers [12]. 
 
 
Gender Issues
There are significant gendered differences in gambling behaviour. Men who gamble are more likely than women to be at-risk or problem gamblers (8% versus 5%) [2]. Unlike males, female problem gambling tends to occur later in life, amidst negative emotional states and interpersonal conflict, and have a rapid progression [13-16]. Women often gamble as an outlet for loneliness or to reduce boredom compared to men who gamble for pleasure, excitement, and monetary gain. Whereas men prefer skill-based games (horse races, action table game), women are more likely to play socially-isolating games, (slot machines, bingo, video lottery terminals) [17]. Female problem gamblers are more likely to have had a history of childhood physical abuse and relationship problems prior to the onset of problem gambling [11]. 

Not only can gambling affect the physical and mental wellbeing of the gambler, it can have extensive social consequences for the gambler’s family and close friends. Gambling can result in dysfunctional relationships, loss of family income, neglect, violence, and abuse [18]; female partners of problem gamblers may also be at increased risk of domestic violence [19].
 
 
Diversity
A disproportionate number of individuals who participate in certain gambling activities are from marginalized populations [12]. Problem gambling is more prevalent among Aboriginal peoples in North America than the general population, although motivations for gambling do not differ [20]. Off-reserve Aboriginal gamblers exhibit higher prevalence of at-risk and problem gamblers compared to non-Aboriginal gamblers (18% versus 6%). The proportion of male and female Aboriginal gamblers is not entirely clear [2] although one large study with urban Aboriginals in Western Canada indicated that men gambled more frequently than women [21]. Generally, data about gambling rates in other minority populations is not collected.

Researchers have found that the prevalence of gambling problems among youth is higher than the adult populations [22]. Young men are more likely than young women to gamble (66% versus 57%) and have a higher risk of problem gambling [23]. Youth are often attracted to the perceived excitement, entertainment, and financial freedom associated with gambling as portrayed in the media [24]. Moreover, youth use the Internet regularly increasing the likelihood of gaining access to either Internet gambling alone or in social networks [22]. Youth might also be reward driven and not yet possess mature critical reasoning and emotion regulation strategies to resist reward drives [25]. Similar to adults, gambling during adolescence can lead to adverse outcomes, such as strained relationships, delinquency and criminal behaviour, depression, and even suicide [26]. 
 
 
Critique
There is little research and data about behaviours and correlates of problem gambling among women, perhaps due to men’s higher prevalence of problem gambling [27, 28]. Very little is currently known about differences in gambling treatment outcomes, but women tend to be under-represented in gambling treatment programs [29]. Research about gambling among youth is also lacking, despite consensus in the literature that young adults are the highest-risk group for gambling [30, 31]. The advent of online gambling makes gambling among youth increasingly difficult to monitor and measure. Without sufficient data on women’s and youth’s problem gambling, it is difficult to develop targeted and appropriate gambling prevention programs. Since the social cost associated with problem gambling is difficult to quantify, the full extent of the social costs of problem gambling are likely underestimated and should be investigated further [32, 33]. 
 
 
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health determinants > gambling