Research out of the University at Buffalo by John Welte and colleagues suggests that gambling problems — pathological gambling, to be specific — are more problematic than alcohol dependence in older adults. Some of the findings are interesting.
But one finding stood out for me as being a bit sensationalistic. That finding was that pathological gambling — something other studies have consistently pegged in the 0.8% to 2.0% range of adults (see Stucki & Rihs-Middel, 2007) — is more common than alcohol dependence (which studies put in the 3.8% range, see Keyes et al., 2009). Past research has shown that alcohol dependence (also known as alcoholism) is something that occurs in the adult population at twice the rate of pathological gambling.
In Welte’s (2011) study, however, the researchers found something different altogether. They found that from age 22 onwards, pathological gambling is more prevalent than alcoholism. And in the age 31 to 40 group, they found it nearly 3 times as prevalent (at over 5 percent of that age group)!
So what’s going on here? What could account for this significant discrepancy between this new study and much of the previous research?