From Our 2010 Archives

Genetics Linked to Gambling Problems in Both Genders

MONDAY, June 7 (HealthDay News) -- Genetics play an important role in the development of problem gambling in both women and men, a new study has found.

Previous research has shown that problem gambling runs in families, with one study reporting that 8% of the first-degree relatives of people with gambling disorders had a history of similar problems, compared with 2% of relatives of unaffected individuals, according to background information provided in the report.

For the new study, researchers assessed nearly 2,900 pairs of twins in Australia, aged 32 to 43, and found that nearly all of them had gambled at some point, about half had gambled at least once a month and about one-third had gambled at least once a week. About 2.2% met the criteria for pathological gambling (3.4% of men and 1.2% of women), and 12.5% had experienced one or more symptoms of pathological gambling (18.2% of men and 8.3% of women).

While genes were estimated to contribute almost 50% to differences between people in terms of gambling disorders, "there was no evidence for shared environmental influences contributing to variation in disordered gambling liability," Wendy S. Slutske, of the University of Missouri-Columbia, and colleagues reported in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The researchers found no evidence of gender differences in the causes of problem gambling.

"This study represents a major step forward in that it establishes for the first time that genes are as important in the etiology of disordered gambling in women as they are in men," the researchers wrote. "In addition to similar relative contributions of genetic vs. environmental factors to variation in liability for disordered gambling, the results suggest that the susceptibility genes contributing to variation in liability for disordered gambling may also overlap considerably in men and women."

The study authors concluded that "the discovery of the specific genes and environments involved in the development of disordered gambling remains an important direction for future research."

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, June 7, 2010