Prevalence studies around the world show that men are the largest group at risk of becoming problem gamblers and that men gamble more than women. However, gambling research has long been gender blind. The gambling market is rapidly changing, with the Internet making gambling more accessible. Further, despite the well-documented presence of health, social and financial problems among the concerned significant others (CSOs) of someone close with gambling problems in clinical and help-seeking samples, there is little research investigating on this population. This thesis aims to examine the relation between gender and problem gambling among regular gamblers and CSOs, and to determine whether there was a convergence of men’s and women’s gambling behavior between 1997/98 and 2009/10 in Sweden. A further aim is to examine health problems associated with Internet gambling and CSOs.
The data collections were taken from three different but linked gambling and health representative national population based studies in Sweden, all using the same methods: telephone interviews supplemented by questionnaires. The studies are as follows: 1) prevalence study 1997/98, age 15-74 years, n = 10,000, response rate 72% (n = 7,139) 2) prevalence study 2008/09, age 16-84 years, n = 15,000, response rate 63% (n = 8,165); and 3) incident study 2009/10, the 8,165 participants from the 2008/09 prevalence study were contacted again, response rate 74% (n = 6,021).
Gambling was generally merged into domains based on the axis chance-strategy and public-domestic. The dichotomy of public and private spheres is relevant in since there is a link between the public sphere and notions of masculinity and a link between the private and femininity. Further, the literature suggests that men are attracted to gambling that involves features of strategy, whereas women generally prefer game of chance. Problem gambling was measured using SOGS-R and PGSI. Health variables included measures such as self-reported health, psychological stress, social support, alcohol consumption, and financial situation as a determinant of health.
There were very few indications of a convergence between men’s and women’s gambling behavior. Men and women generally gambled in different domains. Men gambled more than women and dominated all domains except the domain of chance-domestic, a domain associated with less risk and Internet gambling. However, men and women who gambled regularly were just as likely to be problem gamblers. No gender differences were found in the score from separate PGSI analyses in the chance-public domain (games of chance in public spaces, such as gambling machines and bingo in halls). This domain was also the only domain associated with problem gambling for women who gambled regularly. Men and women were just as likely to report that they were CSOs and they constituted a large proportion of the Swedish population (18%). CSOs experienced a range of social, economic and health related problems including psychological stress, risky alcohol consumption, exposure to violence, and separations. For women who were CSOs, no relation with own problem gambling was found.
This thesis suggests that the presence of gambling machines must be addressed to prevent problem gambling and that separate analyses for men and women are required to identify important differences between genders. The findings indicate that gambling domains produce and reinforce gender. Further, to be able to prevent problem gambling we require further knowledge about these gendered processes. However, it is also important to see the overall similarities between men and women to avoid reinforcing stereotypical images of gender which would have an negative impact on the preventive work. Male and female gamblers are both very heterogeneous categories where the specific gambling site, context and life circumstances must be acknowledged.
Prevention, research and interventions should also target CSOs if a public health approach is applied because they require help and support in their own right. CSOs also play an important to the problem gambler. More qualitative research is required to understand gendered processes in gambling, as well as further research on interventions that go beyond the individual and address gambling and problem gambling at various levels. When addressing the harmful effects of gambling from a public health perspective, it is imperative to recognize the ethical principles of justice, autonomy, doing no harm and beneficence.
Östersund: Mid Sweden University , 2013. , 70 p.
Gender, problem gambling, concerned significant others, relatives, PGSI, SOGS-R, Internet, public health, social support, incidence