Objective: Based on the National Epidemiological Survey of Psychiatric Disorders in South Korea conducted in 2006, we examined the prevalence, clinical correlations, comorbidities, and suicidal tendencies of pathological gamblers in the community.
Method: Of the 6,510 participants who completed the Korean version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (K-CIDI) administered by trained lay interviewers, 5,333 subjects fully completed the Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS) exploring pathological gambling. The DIS has 13 items mapping to 10 criteria. Endorsement of five DSM-IV criteria was considered to reflect pathological gambling, and we considered endorsement of one to four criteria to indicate problem gambling. The frequencies of psychiatric disorders and suicidal tendency were analyzed among pathological/problem gamblers in comparison with controls; both odds ratios and significance levels were calculated.
Results: The lifetime prevalence rates of pathological gambling and problem gambling were 0.8% and 3.0%, respectively. Of pathological gamblers, 79.1% had at least one psychiatric illness in comparison to the control level of 28.1%, and 62.0% of problem gamblers also had psychiatric conditions. Associations between pathological/problem gambling and alcohol use disorder, nicotine dependence, mood disorder, anxiety disorder, and suicidality were overwhelmingly positive and significant (p < 0.05), even after controlling for age and gender. Male gender, divorced/separated/widowed marital status, and urban living were all associated with increased risks of pathological and problem gambling (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Pathological/problem gambling is highly associated with substance abuse, mood and anxiety disorders, and suicidality, suggesting that clinicians should carefully evaluate and treat such psychiatric disorders in gamblers.