Gambling, alcohol, depression. What is the connection?

Publication date: 20 Jun 2023

Gambling often raises many questions. A reckless attitude towards gambling and betting can cause harm, therefore modern bookmakers and casinos pay careful attention to customer protection and responsible gaming.  However, new research dismisses most of the accusations made about online betting and gambling.

For example, the University of Memphis (USA) conducted a study on “Alcohol Consumption during Gambling”. Experts found out how addiction to alcohol and addiction to gambling are related.  

  • The study revealed that drinkers believe that alcohol makes them more focused and proficient. Hence, drinking alcohol, in their opinion, leads to more wins.
  • Conversely, the players with the highest scores on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) believe that “mixing gambling and drinking is a bad idea”.
  • Nevertheless, those with gambling problems also have a “high likelihood” of being at risk of drinking problems.

The New School for Social Research in New York published a paper in 2022 examining “whether acute alcohol consumption increases risk during gambling”. As a result, analysts claimed they failed to find a correlation between alcohol consumption and riskier gambling behaviour.

Researchers from the University of Memphis continued this research. Roughly 800 people who gambled outside the labs (that is, they were not subjected to environmental pressure) were surveyed. Ultimately, the experts concluded that “the combination of drinking and gambling may be indicative of a problem rather than causing one.”

As well, the study showed that general drinking behaviour – such as the number of days of drinking in a month – helped predict time spent on gambling.

Researchers suggest that further research is essential. For instance, scientists are concerned with the question of whether winning or losing affects a person’s desire to drink. How does spending time in a casino affect the desire to drink compared to gambling at home? Does drinking behaviour change when you gamble alone or with others? Part of the funding for the new research is planned to come from the legalization of betting and gambling in various US states.

Another study, which investigated the link between online gambling and human well-being, was published in June 2023.  Minimum Deposit Casinos (MDC) shared an analysis of the health problems that can be associated with online gambling and excessive time “at the screen”. Hundreds of online gamblers in four countries – Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States – were surveyed.

Survey participants described the medical problems they encounter after spending time online. The most common were eye strain or vision problems, neck or back pain, headaches or migraines, wrist or hand pain, sleep disorders or insomnia, anxiety or depression, social isolation, extreme levels of stress, acne or other skin conditions.

Overall, experts discovered that among those who spend significant amounts of time online:

  • 10.3% have extreme levels of stress;
  • 10.7% have a variety of visual problems;
  • 11.4% have sleep disorders or insomnia;
  • 14.1% have headaches and migraines;
  • 14.4% have neck or back pain;
  • 15.9% have anxiety or depression.

Based on the results, many participants aged 18 to 29 reported experiencing anxiety or depression, headaches or migraines. Yet people aged 30 to 44 said they mostly experienced headaches, migraines, neck or back pain as well as anxiety or depression. However, people aged 45 to 60 and above reported experiencing minimal health problems due to online gambling.

Conclusions drawn by experts, though, are based on such data. On average, most participants (25.5%) claimed to spend 1-2 hours per week on online games, gambling, betting or social media, 24.3% spent 3-4 hours, 13.6% spent 5-10 hours, 14.1% spent 10 hours or more and 22.5% of participants spent less than an hour on online gambling. In summary, it cannot be said that gambling rather than excessive time online was the cause of the health impairment.

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