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Original Research

A Cross-Sectional Study of Problem and Pathological Gambling in Patients With Schizophrenia/Schizoaffective Disorder

Rani A. Desai, PhD, MPH, and Marc N. Potenza, MD, PhD

Published: June 16, 2009

Article Abstract

Background: Community data suggest frequent co-occurrence between schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder and problem gambling. However, gambling behaviors in large samples of patients with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder have not been systematically examined to date.

Method: A sample of outpatient subjects (N = 337) diagnosed with either schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and who were treated in either the VA Connecticut Healthcare System or the Connecticut Mental Health Center was interviewed in order to examine the prevalence estimates and clinical correlates of problem and pathological gambling. Multinomial logistic regression models investigated clinically relevant measures in recreational or problem/pathological gamblers, as compared to nongamblers. Data were collected between June 2002 and November 2003.

Results: Sixty-five participants (19%) met criteria for past-year problem/pathological gambling, with 10% meeting criteria for pathological gambling. Significant correlates of problem and pathological gambling from multivariable models included greater alcohol use severity (P = .007), higher depression scores (P = .04), and more outpatient mental health care utilization (P = .03). Participants with problem/pathological gambling were more likely than recreational gamblers to gamble for excitement, gamble more frequently and heavily, and report either sports or card gambling as favorite.

Conclusions: A substantial proportion of individuals in treatment for psychotic disorders report past-year gambling problems. Patients with co-occurring alcohol use problems and depression may be at particularly high risk. These findings suggest the need for improved prevention and treatment efforts related to problem/pathological gambling in individuals with psychotic disorders.

Submitted: May 7, 2008; accepted September 26, 2008.

Online ahead of print: June 16, 2009.

Corresponding author: Rani A. Desai, PhD, MPH, Northeast Program Evaluation Center, VA Connecticut Healthcare System (182), 950 Campbell Ave, West Haven, CT 06516 (

Volume: 70

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