Genetic Epidemiology of Pathological Gambling
Study Code:GA
Sample:6749 individuals
Start Date:Mar.2004
Status:In progress
Contact:Anjali Henders
More Info:QIMR only


The broad aim of this study is to examine the causes of pathological and problem gambling (PG) in a community based twin sample. The study will examine, using epidemiologic and biometrical modelling approaches, the causes of PG and problem gambling among both women and men.

Pathological gambling has recently become a major public health concern.
Australia provides a setting in which relatively high levels of PG are found in the community. The density of gambling venues, the prevalence of gambling participation, and the prevalence of gambling problems in Australia are quite likely the highest in the world, and are certainly the highest among the English-speaking nations. Thus, Australia is the ideal setting in which to conduct a community based study of PG, and is also well-suited for a genetic epidemiologic investigation because it will allow for an examination of the genetic influence on pathological gambling susceptibility in a culture in which most individuals have been heavily exposed to gambling opportunities. Furthermore, Australia is more generally a society of nearly universal alcohol use, and there is a particularly high concentration of gambling opportunities in venues associated with the consumption of alcohol. Thus, Australia is also an ideal setting for studying the causes of PG and alcohol dependence comorbidity among women and men who have been heavily exposed to both gambling opportunities and alcohol. There are recognised costs to families and individuals and society as a result of PG, yet it has been relatively ignored by the psychiatric research community until recently.



There will be two assessment tools (an interview and a questionnaire). American twin pairs, in which both members served in the US Military during the Vietnam era, were studied for gambling behaviour in 1991-93. Wendy Slutske (PI) and associates carried out a 10 year follow up study using these twin pairs. The structured telephone interview for this current study has been adapted for use in Australia from the Vietnam Era Twin 10 year follow-up study. The interview, lasting about 60 minutes, will contain questions about: (1) basic demographics (2) shared childhood experiences with cotwin and frequency of cotwin contact (including frequency of shared gambling experiences) (3) lifetime involvement in gambling activities (4) detailed assessment of current gambling involvement, the heaviest period of gambling involvement, and the period when gambling involvement first began (5) Attitudes towards gambling (6) lifetime and past year symptoms of PG (7) a screen for mania (8) lifetime and past year gambling behaviour and DSM-IV symptoms of the respondent's cotwin, parents, current spouse, and offspring (9) lifetime history of alcohol use (10) lifetime history of smoking.

The Questionnaire will contain assessments of: (1) personality traits (2) symptoms of DSM-IV antisocial personality disorder. The personality assessment will include modified versions of Tellegen's Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ) and Zuckerman's Sensation Seeking Scale (
SSS Form V)