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Parental link to gambling addiction

15th June 2010

People whose parents are addicted to gambling are more likely to gamble than their peers whose parents did not gamble, according to a recent Australian study.

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The researchers studied several thousand twins to find out whether or not the urge to gamble could be pinned to genetics.

Wendy Slutske, of the University of Missouri, said that previous research in men showed gambling addiction ran in families.

She said that her study built on what scientists have already established, with more research into why women gamble.

They made use of data gathered data on identical and fraternal twins, which allowed them to unravel the subtle influences culture, environment, and genetics have on a person's likelihood of being addicted to gambling.

The study subjects included about 2,700 women and 2,000 men, all registered with the Australian Twin Registry.

While almost every study subject gambled in one way or another, the male subjects gambled far more than the women who took part in the study.

In total, the researchers identified 34 women as 'problem gamblers,' compared to 70 of the men.

The study authors said that gambling addiction was very common in Australia, and that gambling addiction was far more common among pairs of identical twins than among pairs of fraternal twins.

The authors said that shared environmental factors did not explain variations in addictive behaviours, although environment was important.

So, children who have gambling addicts in their family were more likely to gamble both because they inherited the right risk-award genes and because they were exposed to the 'problem gambling role model.'

Slutske said, however, that there was probably no such thing as a single specific 'gambling gene.'

She said that, like alcoholism, the problem was a complex disorder related to a collection of genes, maybe 10 or 100, each of which would add a slight risk increase to a person's life.

 

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