Gambling severity, impulsivity, and psychopathology: comparison of treatment- and community-recruited pathological gamblers

Am J Addict. 2012 Nov-Dec;21(6):508-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1521-0391.2012.00280.x. Epub 2012 Sep 27.


Background and objectives: Because most studies of pathological gambling gather data from participants recruited from treatment, this study compared community and treatment-enrolled pathological gamblers (PGs) with respect to demographics, gambling severity, impulsivity, and psychopathology.

Methods: One hundred six PGs were recruited as part of two larger studies in Farmington, Connecticut (n= 61) and Windsor, Ontario (n= 45) using radio advertising, word of mouth, and/or newspaper ads, as well as a gambling treatment program at each location.

Results: Community (n= 49) and treatment-enrolled (n= 57) PGs did not differ on age, education, gender, race, employment, or marital status. Treatment-enrolled PGs were more likely to report past year illegal behaviors, preoccupation with gambling, and higher scores on the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS) Attention Impulsivity subscale. Assessment of psychopathology in the Ontario study indicated that treatment-enrolled PGs were more likely to present with Major Depressive and Dysthymic Disorders. Community-recruited PGs in the Connecticut study were overall more likely to present with any substance use disorder relative to their treatment-enrolled counterparts.

Conclusions and scientific significance: Our findings inform intervention and research within the field of pathological gambling. Specifically, the distressing aspects of pathological gambling, such as legal issues, preoccupation with gambling, and depression, may be present more in treatment-enrolled PGs than in those recruited from the community. Such emotional disturbances should be further explored to increase motivation and treatment adherence in PGs. In addition, due to relative absence of overall differences between the groups, research findings utilizing treatment-enrolled PGs may be a good representation of both groups.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Connecticut / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology
  • Dysthymic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gambling / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Severity of Illness Index