Does Religiosity Decrease Odds of Developing a Gambling Problem?

Religious belief and active involvement in religious practices has been shown to have far-reaching benefits. Religiosity is linked to higher levels of satisfaction and happiness and lower levels of risky and maladaptive behaviors, such as suicide, depression, and alcohol and drug addiction. Although there is an abundance of research demonstrating the myriad positive effects that spirituality and religiosity can have, there is little research exploring how religiosity impacts problem gambling. Gambling can be as destructive as other addictive behaviors. Individuals who cannot control their gambling may face consequences such as loss of job, family, and home. They are also at increased risk for significant mental and physical health problems.

Lilian A. Ghandour of the American University of Beirut wanted to fill this gap in literature by looking at how religiosity impacted gambling behaviors among a group of college students in Lebanon. The 570 participants were made up of Muslims, Christians, Protestants, and nonreligious students, half of whom were self-described lifetime gamblers. Ghandour found that Christians had more gambling problems than Muslims, and that nonreligious students were nearly four times more likely than religious students to develop gambling issues.

Ghandour believes that the significant disparity in gambling behaviors between Muslim students and nonreligious students could be due in part to the fact Muslims tend to view gambling as a particularly negative behavior. The results of this study clearly show that a student’s religion plays a role in how he or she views gambling, and if he or she is at increased risk for gambling problems. But the findings presented here also raise questions. “Although religion/religiosity may play a safeguarding role, a clear and coherent picture of the indirect and direct relationships is yet to be drawn,” Ghandour said. Future work should look at what mechanisms of religiosity buffer against negative behaviors such as gambling, and if religiosity and spirituality influence positive coping strategies. If so, this research could pave the way for counseling interventions that use religiosity as a foundation for behavioral change.

Ghandour, L. A., & El Sayed, D. S. (2012). Gambling behaviors among university youth: Does one’s religious affiliation and level of religiosity play a role? Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030172

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  • Melody

    December 6th, 2012 at 3:56 AM

    Religion and faith are two things that can give you the support that you need when you find yourself torn between making a decision about doing the right or the wrong things. This is something in my own life that I will always have to turn to during times that are especially difficult and challenging and I find that a lot of my friends with the same beliefs that I have feel the same way. It is that extra element of support that can get you through those times when you aren’t sure you can survive. But with your faith to lean on you will find that you are stronger than you may have ever thought that you could or would be.

  • Toni

    December 6th, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    Ummm…surely the author of this little write up realizes that protestants are christians?

  • Kristi

    December 6th, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    What a great idea to use religiosity as a starting point for gambling addiction therapy! I hadn’t thought of it before, but it does make perfect sense. And, I am ready for Muslims to get some positive press.I recently finished watching a comedy series about Muslims in Canada trying to thrive in an anti-Muslim world. It was very funny, but also very enlightening. It showed the mainstream Muslim in a very positive light as opposed to the many media portrayals of the more extreme Muslim. The show definitely got the point across that Muslims are against gambling. Anyway, I am glad to read a study that finds Muslims doing things well!

  • rodd

    December 6th, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    following a religion by itself doesnt help avoid gambling addiction or behavior is the level of religiosity n adherence that u have towards it.also,because Islam views gambling as something excessively negative I am not surprised at the results.but Im doubtful as to how they can use this in cant ask people to turn to a particular religion to get away from gambling,can u?

  • kennedy

    December 6th, 2012 at 11:32 PM

    while religion may assume a greater importance in some peole’s lives and while it may help them with keeping gambling addiction at bay,I do not think a generalization would be right.

    sure there are religious people who are still addicted to gambling.religion and belief is not the be all and end all when it comes to gambling.a variety of other things could egg on the person in his addiction to gambling.and those that are religious in the first place will definitely not have the will to turn to religion to help their problem because they are clearly people who struggle with something like gambling and so religion and adherence and that too while in an already developed stage of addiction may not be feasible.

  • vanessa B

    December 7th, 2012 at 4:08 AM

    Hello! Look at all the bingo halls run and operated by the churches. You are telling me that gambling is not a problem with those who go to church?!

  • Wilma

    December 9th, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    At my church being involved gives you this kind of love and support that extends far beyond the traditional family.

    Whenever I feel like I need a little something extra I know that I have more people who care about me and to whom I can turn when I need them.

    That is something that feels very special to me. I know that in times of need no matter what, I will not ever have to feel like I am alone.

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