Mental health’s close connection with problem gambling

– Special by Jenna Hotaling

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Mental health refers to our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral wellness.  How we think and feel can attribute to the behaviors we display.  Many individuals struggle with their mental health on a daily basis.  A variety of factors come into play, but did you ever think that problem gambling may be a source of emotional distress for someone?  Especially now, with feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety are at an all-time high. 

Here are the facts:

  • Nearly 668,000 New Yorkers have experienced a gambling problem in the past year, which is about 5% of the population, (2006 OASAS Adult Problem Gambling Household Survey). 
  • Each person struggling with problem gambling affects 6-10 of those closest to them. 
  • A study found that 9 out of 10 people affected by someone else’s gambling problems felt emotional distress, (Nash et al, 2018).
  • This means that between the people struggling with problem gambling and the people closest to them, nearly 6.7 million New Yorkers are affected by problem gambling and may struggle with mental health issues because of it. 
  • People who struggle with problem gambling are also at a higher risk for struggling with other mental health disorders, (Petry et al, 2005).
  • Two out of three gamblers reported that their mental health suffered as a result of their gambling problems, (Nash et al, 2018).

With the world in its current state, many individuals are turning to different ways to gamble at home for entertainment, or even to cope.  Higher rates of depression are at the forefront amidst the isolation, which can create the perfect storm for those at risk for developing a problem.  On top of that, problem gambling has the highest suicide rate among all addictions. 

“About 50% of those with disordered gambling have had suicidal thoughts. Over 17% of these individuals have attempted suicide,” (Moghaddam et al, 2015).

How can we tell if someone is struggling with a gambling addiction?  Look for these warning signs:

  • being absent from friend/family events because of gambling
  • feeling stressed or anxious when not gambling
  • preoccupation with betting
  • lying to family and friends about how much money and time is spent on gambling. 

If you or a loved one identifies with having a gambling problem, help is available!  The Finger Lakes Problem Gambling Resource Center (FL-PGRC) is a local resource for all gambling-related resources.  We can assist the problem gambler and those who are negatively affected by their loved ones’ gambling habits.  Call/text us today (585) 351-2262 or FingerLakesPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org to learn more.


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