Gamblers and Substance Abusers Share Traits
Researchers Find Similar Personalities for Problem Gamblers and Substance Abusers
WebMD News Archive
July 5, 2005 -- People with gambling and substance abuse problems may share
similar personalities, a new study shows.
Researchers found that problem gamblers display many similar personality
traits, such as rebelliousness, anger, and being a risk taker, with people who
abuse alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine.
They say certain shared personality traits may help explain why problem
gambling and substance abuse often go together. The findings may lead to better
treatments for these problems.
What Makes an Addictive Personality?
In the study, which appears in the July issue of the Archives of General
Psychiatry, researchers analyzed personality assessments of nearly 1,000
18-year-old men and women from Dunedin, New Zealand, some of whom were
diagnosed with problem gambling, alcohol, marijuana, or nicotine use by the
time they were 21.
First, researchers examined the associations between problem gambling and
each of the three substance-abuse disorders. Then they compared 10 basic
personality variations among people in each disorder group to those who did not
develop gambling or substance abuse problems.
The personality profile associated with problem gambling was very similar to
that associated with other substance-related addictive disorders, they
They found that people with problem gambling in the past year were three
times as likely to have one of the three substance-abuse disorders. Researchers
say the magnitude of this association is nearly as strong as the
well-established association between alcohol and nicotine dependence.
The study also showed that young adults with gambling problems were more
likely to score higher on personality measures of negative emotions and
impulsive and risk-taking behavior at age 18 than others.
Negative emotional traits included nervousness or worry, anger or
aggressiveness, and feeling mistreated or victimized.
Researchers say focusing on these basic personality traits may be a
promising approach to understanding why people often suffer from both gambling
and substance-abuse problems.
Taken together, the findings raise the possibility that genetically
influenced aspects of personality -- especially low behavioral control -- may
be partially responsible for the association between problem gambling and
addictive disorders, they write.