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Is Pathological Gambling Genetic?

Is Pathological Gambling Genetic?

In a recent study done by the University of Iowa which was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it was shown that pathological gambling runs in families.

Pathological gambling’ is defined as gambling that has become a clinical issue. To date, between 0.5 to 1.5% of all American adults have been affected by this issue at some time in their lives.

Is Pathological Gambling Genetic?

According to a recent study in Iowa, pathological gambling runs in families.


The results of the study showed that first-degree relatives of someone who is a pathological gambler, are eight times more likely to develop a gambling problem during their lifetime.

According to Donald W. Black, a psychiatry professor at the university and the lead author of the study which was published in the March issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, family members of a pathological gambler are more likely to develop gambling problems than any other types of psychiatric and behavioral disorders.

The study included 91 control subjects and 95 pathological gamblers from Iowa which were matched based on their age, sex and level of education. Over 1,075 first-degree relatives were also included in the study such as siblings, children and parents.

Through the interview process, it was found that 11% of the first-degree relatives had pathological gambling issues as opposed to only 1% of the control group. When the study was repeated with double the number of participants, 16% of first-degree relatives were problem gamblers as opposed to only 3% of those in the control group.

The study also looked at the relationship between pathological gambling and other behavioral and psychiatric disorders.

It was found that relatives of these gamblers had high rates of bipolar disorder, major depression and substance use disorders. Antisocial personality disorder, social anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were found to be the most prevalent in relatives of pathological gamblers.

Further studies will now be conducted to review the link between genetics and gambling problems.

OCA News Editor