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Gambling Problems Double in Poorer Neighborhoods

Update Date: Jan 06, 2014 04:16 PM EST

Excessive gambling can lead to a lot of complications, such as mental illnesses. When people gamble at high stakes, they risk losing huge amounts of money, resulting in debt. Financial pressures could then lead to health problems such as depression. In a new study, researchers from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) found that people who lived in poorer neighborhoods were more likely to have gambling problems in comparison to people who lived in higher income neighborhoods.

"We found that neighborhood disadvantage had a substantial effect on problem gambling, even after controlling for a person's socioeconomic status, age, gender or race," stated Grace M. Barnes, PhD, RIA senior research scientist and first author of the study reported by Medical Xpress. "We also controlled for the convenience of gambling opportunities in these neighborhoods, and our findings were unchanged."

In this study, the researchers interviewed almost 5,000 people living in the United States via the telephone. The participants' ages ranged from 14 to 90. Based on these self-reports, the researchers found that people who lived in neighborhoods dealing with poverty were twice as likely to have gambling problems in comparison to people who lived in neighborhoods with low levels of poverty.

The researchers were able to rank the poverty levels in the neighborhoods studied using census data. The researchers looked at the percentages of unemployed people, people receiving public assistance and people living in poverty. The team found that over 11 percent of the people from poor neighborhoods had some kind of gambling problem. The rate of people from neighborhoods with lower levels of poverty was just five percent.

John W. Welte, Ph.D., RIA senior research scientist and study co-author, added, according to Medical Xpress, "It may be that people who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods do not see many role models of financial success achieved through conventional means. Therefore, gambling may be viewed as one of the few opportunities for financial advancement, and perhaps provides the lure as a means for easily gaining money."

The researchers reasoned that poorer people might view gambling as a means of earning money. The study was published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

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