Estimating the prevalence of disordered gambling behavior in the United States and Canada: a research synthesis

Am J Public Health. 1999 Sep;89(9):1369-76. doi: 10.2105/ajph.89.9.1369.


Objectives: This study developed prevalence estimates of gambling-related disorders in the United States and Canada, identified differences in prevalence among population segments, and identified changes in prevalence over the past 20 years.

Methods: A meta-analytic strategy was employed to synthesize estimates from 119 prevalence studies. This method produced more reliable prevalence rates than were available from any single study.

Results: Prevalence estimates among samples of adolescents were significantly higher than estimates among samples of adults for both clinical (level 3) and subclinical (level 2) measures of disordered gambling within both lifetime and past-year time frames (e.g., 3.9% vs 1.6% for lifetime estimates of level 3 gambling). Among adults, prevalence estimates of disordered gambling have increased significantly during the past 20 years.

Conclusions: Membership in youth, treatment, or prison population segments is significantly associated with experiencing gambling-related disorders. Understanding subclinical gamblers provides a meaningful opportunity to lower the public health burden associated with gambling disorders. Further research is necessary to determine whether the prevalence of disordered gambling will continue to increase among the general adult population and how prevalence among adolescents will change as this cohort ages.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Classification
  • Cost of Illness
  • Gambling* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Terminology as Topic
  • United States / epidemiology