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Gender Differences

Very few studies have focused on the gender differences related to gambling and problem gambling.  Of the few that have focused on this issue, significant differences have been identified.

1. Motivation for Gambling:

One of the most noted gender differences with regard to gambling is around motivation.  Many have identified that men tend to gamble for the excitement, the sake of feeling a rush and for the action (Ladd & Petry, 2002; Walker, G. J. et al. 2005), while women gamble mostly to escape and cope with stressful or unsatisfying lives (Ladd & Petry, 2002; Boughton & Brewster, 2002). 

2. Progression of Problem and Age of Onset:

The progression of a gambling problem is much faster in women than it is in men (Tavares et al., 2001).  In addition, women tend to start gambling significantly later in life, compared to men.  In their study, Tavares et al., (2001) found that the average onset of gambling was 34.2 for women compared to 20.4 for men.

3. Treatment Representation:

Much of the research suggests that women are underrepresented in treatment.  Women constitute only 2-7% of Gamblers Anonymous membership (Mark & Lesieur, 1992; Lesieur & Blume, 1991)

4. Other Risk-Taking Behaviours:

Martins et al., (2004) specifically studied risk-taking behaviour among individuals who were experiencing problems related to gambling.  They identified a few key differences:

  • Females were more likely to attempt suicide than males.
  • Men had more sexual risky behaviour than females.
  • Men were more likely to abuse alcohol than women. 
  • There were no gender differences around involvement in illegal activities. 

While other researchers confirm that males having problems related to gambling are more likely to report alcohol abuse while females are more likely to report the abuse of prescribed medications (Toneatto and Skinner, 2000; Ladd & Petry, 2002), the relative degree of legal difficulties is not clear.  In contrast to Martins et al., (2004), Ladd & Petry (2002) identified that male participants had more legal difficulties than did female participants.   Abbott (2002) found that women are less likely to commit gambling related crimes but are more likely to be convicted of criminal offenses.

5. Relationship Issues:

Finally, Ladd & Petry (2002) identified that females experiencing problems with gambling were substantially more likely than males “to be living with someone with a current gambling problem or alcohol problem.”  Consequently, the home context for these women “may be more unstable, stressful, or unsupportive than that of their male counterparts.  Female participants also had more friends who gambled than did male participants, suggesting that their gambling behaviours may be more strongly tied to their social network, making it more difficult for them to remove themselves from gambling situations or pressures.”  (Ladd & Petry, 2002)

Gender differences also exist around mental health, trauma, finances and social dimension.  Details of these differences will be addressed in the next section entitled “Risk Factors”.

Back to Women and Gambling


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