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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