Men with Gambling Addiction Likely to Have History of Trauma

Person with handful of cards mid-gameMen with problematic gambling habits are more likely to have witnessed violence or experienced childhood trauma, according to a study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

According to 2014 data from the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Center, gambling addiction is one of the most common behavioral addictions, with 2.2% of adults experiencing a gambling addiction each year.

The Link Between Gambling and Trauma

The study, led by forensic psychologist Amanda Roberts, surveyed 3,025 men ages 18-64. Using the South Oaks Gambling Scale, the study assessed for problem gambling—a gambling issue that has not yet become an addiction—and probable pathological gambling. Participants also provided information about traumatic and stressful life experiences, as well as details about drug and alcohol use.

Men assessed as probable pathological gamblers or problem gamblers were more likely to report a history of trauma. More than a quarter of those with probable pathological gambling had witnessed violence in their homes during childhood. Ten percent reported childhood physical abuse, and 7% had experienced a life-threatening injury.

Nearly 23% of problem gamblers reported witnessing violence in the home, and 9% experienced physical abuse in their childhood homes. Just 8% of non-problem gamblers witnessed violence in their homes as children, and less than 4% were abused.

Gambling and Mental Health

The study also found several mental health risk factors among problem gamblers. Thirty-five percent of pathological gamblers had serious financial problems. Twenty-nine percent had been convicted of a crime, and nearly 20% had lost relationships. Among non-problem gamblers, the figures were 12%, 9%, and 10% respectively.

In 2016, Roberts led a related study that established a link between gambling and violence in men. Based on a representative survey of men in the United Kingdom, the study found that problem gamblers were more likely to behave in violent ways, such as assaulting intimate partners. Men with the most serious gambling addictions had higher rates of severe violent behavior.


  1. Comments on SAMHSA’s Leading Change 2.0: Advancing the Behavioral Health of the Nation 2015-2018 [PDF]. (2014, August 18). National Council on Problem Gambling.
  2. Gamblers more likely to have suffered childhood traumas, research shows. (2017, August 2). Retrieved from
  3. Roberts, A., Coid, J., King, R., Murphy, R., Turner, J., Bowden-Jones, H., . . . Landon, J. (2016). Gambling and violence in a nationally representative sample of UK men. Addiction, 111(12), 2196-2207. doi:10.1111/add.13522
  4. Roberts, A., Sharman, S., Coid, J., Murphy, R., Bowden-Jones, H., Cowlishaw, S., & Landon, J. (2017). Gambling and negative life events in a nationally representative sample of UK men. Addictive Behaviors, 75, 95-102. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.07.002

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  • Carlos

    August 8th, 2017 at 1:55 PM

    It could also be that they grew up witnessing other types of abusive behavior and this is just how it has shown up in them. It isn’t right but I think that there is probably something very deep seated in this and that it is not so easy to stop, same as when you get in over your head with drugs or alcohol. Obviously if this is the lifestyle that you find yourself caught up in, then you have some past issues that probably need to be addressed and stop avoiding.

  • mikey

    August 10th, 2017 at 11:59 AM

    To say that a large group of gamblers would have financial problems would be quite the understatement.

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