Explosion of gambling opportunities, especially online, has broadened its reach to a wider population and triggered a wave of gambling disorders, says a new study.
According to Dr. David Hodgins, psychologist at the University of Calgary, gambling disorders are often found in conjunction with other mental health and substance-abuse disorders.
"Our knowledge continues to evolve in parallel with a burgeoning availability of gambling opportunities. Internet gambling, for example, is providing around-the-clock home access to several types of gambling activities to an increasing number of people around the world," said Hodgins.
Statistics show that the prevalence of gambling disorders worldwide is highly variable, ranging from 1 in 500 people in Norway to as high as 1 in 20 people in Hong Kong.
In the USA, nearly one pc of the population is pathological gamblers with a further one-two pc categorized as problem gamblers.
Gambling problems are often accompanied by other conditions. For instance, pathological gamblers have a four-times increased risk of alcohol abuse and up to six-times higher risk of drug abuse.
They are also exposed to a four-times higher risk of having some kind of mood disorder.
The study suggests that a number of centres in the brain are implicit in gambling disorders, including learning and reward centres.
The researchers also acknowledge that environmental factors are clearly part of the risk, including accessibility to gambling, location and type of establishment.
The study appears in an online version of the medical journal, The Lancet.