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Factors at Play in Faster Progression for Female Pathological Gamblers: An Exploratory Analysis

J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64:433-438

Background: Previous studies reported a faster progression for alcohol dependence and pathological gambling among females as compared with males. This phenomenon was called the "telescoping effect." By comparing female gamblers with male gamblers regarding gambling preferences and comorbidity, the authors explored potential risk factors for telescoping.

Method: A consecutive sample of Brazilian treatment-seeking pathological gamblers (DSM-IV criteria) was recruited. Genders were contrasted regarding comorbidity and gambling behavior, controlling for demographics, gambling severity, and previous access to mental health services.

Results: Seventy female gamblers and 70 male gamblers were interviewed. A greater proportion of women than men reported electronic bingo and video lottery terminals as their main type of gambling. Gambling was divided in 3 progressive stages: "social gambling," "intense gambling," and "problem gambling." Faster progression for female gamblers was confirmed; female gender and preference for electronic bingo and/or video lottery terminals were risk factors for telescoping throughout all stages. Female gamblers presented a higher comorbidity with depression, whereas male gamblers had higher rates of alcohol dependence. Nevertheless, comorbidity profiles were not related to gambling progression.

Conclusion: Two factors could be at play for treatment-seeking female gamblers in Brazil: (1) a potential gender vulnerability and (2) a cultural environment yielding them access to a narrower range of gambling games that includes mainly the most addictive ones.