Men and women with gambling problems get hooked on different games and play for different reasons, according to a new Yale University study that may help develop treatments for women.
Problem gambling, long considered to affect mostly men, is becoming more common among women, especially as women gain more financial independence and the number of casinos grows, researchers said.
“Trying to understand and distinguish characteristics between males and females with problem gambling may help figure out how to best treat people with gambling problems,” said Dr. Marc Potenza, a psychiatry professor at Yale who heads the Problem Gambling Clinic.
The study by Potenza and other researchers found that women were more likely than men to have problems with games that do not involve much strategy or face-to-face interaction, such as slot machines and bingo.
Men were more likely than women to have problems with strategic, face-to-face games such as blackjack, poker, racing and sports betting.
Also, the study found that female problem gamblers often gamble to escape family troubles or other problems.
Men who have gambling problems are more likely to be thrill-seekers who are chasing the rush they get from winning.
Women with gambling problems were more likely than men to have started gambling later in life. Once they started, however, they tended to get hooked on gambling more quickly than men, Potenza said.
Many of these findings are also seen among cocaine addicts and alcoholics, Potenza said, suggesting a biological basis for gambling addiction.
“Like other addictive disorders, pathological gambling should be treated within a medical and psychiatric clinical setting,” he said.
The study of 562 callers to a gambling help line in Connecticut in 1998 and 1999 was published this month in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
About 70 percent of callers were from Connecticut, and most of the rest were from neighboring states.
Women with gambling – Best Online Casino Singapore problems often are dealing with the loss of a spouse, abuse and other problems, said Marvin Steinberg, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling.
“Women may need to get help for other circumstances, first, before getting help with gambling,” said Steinberg, whose group collaborated with Yale on the study.
Women also are more attracted to gambling as they become financially independent, and because gambling is more socially acceptable than in years past, he said.
Some women in charge of family or small business checkbooks and even former tax collectors in Ledyard and Sprague have embezzled money to feed gambling habits.
Other findings mirrored trends in the general adult population. Men who had gambling problems were more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, while the women were more likely to be receiving mental health treatment.
A large number of problem gamblers of both sexes also reported being in debt and feeling depressed or anxious over their gambling problems.
More study needs to be done on gender differences and gambling problems, said Christine Reilly, the executive director of the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders at Harvard Medical School. The Harvard center was not involved in the Yale study.
Studies need to be done not just on women, but on problem gambling among the elderly and racial minorities, Reilly said.
“The important thing to figure out is, do we need to approach them differently for treatment? … Otherwise it’s not relevant,” Reilly said.
Researchers stressed that problem gambling is a rare disorder among American adults. Less than 2 percent of the population is thought to be so involved in gambling that it seriously interferes with the rest of their lives.