TUESDAY, March 29, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Problem gambling is more common among American adults than alcohol dependence, a new study suggests.
The findings, from the Research Institute on Addictions at the University of Buffalo, challenge some previous research and the widespread belief that problem gambling is rare.
The researchers analyzed two national surveys -- one of 2,631 adults 18 and older and another of 2,274 younger people, aged 14 to 21 -- to determine patterns of gambling and alcohol use at different ages.
The findings related to gambling revealed that levels of gambling, frequent gambling and problem gambling increase during the teen years, reach the highest point in the 20s and 30s and then decline after age 70.
The researchers also found that frequent gambling is more than twice as common among men as among women, 28 percent vs. 13 percent, and that men reach their highest rates of gambling in their late teens, whereas the highest rates among women occur at a later age.
Whites were much more likely than blacks or Asians to report any gambling within the past year, but rates of frequent gambling were higher among blacks and Native Americans.
The researchers also found that rates of frequent and problem gambling rise as socioeconomic status declines, and that involvement in gambling in general tends to drop as socioeconomic status rises.
The study was published in the March issue of the Journal of Gambling Studies.
"No comparable analysis has been done previously and, therefore, none is available for a direct comparison of these results," principal investigator John W. Welte said in a university news release. "But, given what we found about the persistence of frequent and problem gambling through adulthood, increased prevention and intervention efforts are warranted."
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about problem gambling.