Can Pathological Gambling Run In Families?

pathological gamblingUniversity of Iowa researchers found that pathological gambling runs in families, with first-degree relatives of pathological gamblers being eight times more likely to develop this problem in their lifetime than relatives of people without pathological gambling.[1]

“Our work clearly shows that pathological gambling runs in families at a higher rate than for many other behavioral and psychiatric disorders, ” said Donald W. Black, MD. “I think clinicians and health care providers should be alerted to the fact that if they see a person with pathological gambling, that person is highly likely to have a close relative with similar or the same problem. That is a teaching moment and they should probably encourage the patient to let their relatives know that help is available.”1

Pathological gambling is a major public health problem that affects between 0.5 and 1.5 percent of American adults at some point in their lives.1

The UI study, which is the largest of its kind in the world to date, recruited and assessed 95 pathological gamblers and 91 control participants, matched for age, sex, and level of education—as well as 1,075 first-degree adult relatives of the study participants (parents, siblings, children).1

They found that 11 percent of the gambling relatives had pathological gambling themselves compared to one percent of the control relatives, which means that the odds are eight times higher in gambling families.1

“People have always thought pathological gambling ran in families—anecdotal evidence certainly suggested it,” said Black. “But when you finally do a study like this, which is the largest of its kind, and come up with figures like this, it is quite striking.”1

Black continued, “Maybe this situation provides a better chance of finding genes that are linked to the gambling disorder, and maybe that would pave the way for improving our understanding of the genetic transmission in general for psychiatric disorders, particularly in the realm of addiction.”1

[1] Nauert, R. (2014). Pathological Gambling May Run in Families. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/06/18/pathological-gambling-may-run-in-families/71379.html

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