First-of-Its-Kind UK Study Finds Some People May Be Genetically Predisposed to Problem Gambling

A pioneering study, which was partly funded by the Medical Research Council and held by researchers from the University of British Columbia, found that problem gamblers may be genetically predisposed to becoming addicted to gambling.

The research held on twenty people suffering from problem gambling, who were recruited from the UK national problem gambling clinic in London, and 16 siblings, found that gambling addiction may cause some changes to people’s brains and make them more susceptible to the excitement that betting causes. The researchers from the University of British Columbia observed the behavioural patterns of a group of 20 people with gambling disorders and, for the first time, compared them with the ones of their siblings who were not suffering from gambling addiction and a control group.

According to the results of the study, siblings of people suffering from gambling disorders were likely to take bigger risks. They were also more impulsive than the people who were part of the control group. The gambling addicts and their siblings who took part in the research were more inclined to impulsive actions when facing negative emotions. They also placed larger bets.

Researchers Hope More Scientists Would Be Encouraged to Hold Gambling Addiction Predisposition Studies

Brain scans held on the control group and the non-gambling siblings, however, showed no difference which could have suggested that the brain activity of the problem gamblers may be resulting from their gambling.

As revealed by the experts, previous research during which MRI brain scans were used has shown that some active video games’ effect on children’s brains could be the same as the one from alcoholism or drug abuse. In other words, the same changes in the brain structure and function as the ones of drug or alcohol addicts were visible in the brains of underage video gamers and social media users.

Based on the results of the new study, researchers said that such behaviour came as evidence of a genetic predisposition to gambling addiction.

The researchers found siblings of gambling addicts particularly difficult to recruit because problem gambling often ends up with problems in family and personal relationships. The study, however, had a relatively small sample size and analysts shared they remain hopeful that other researchers would be encouraged to hold similar studies in order to learn more about the genetic predisposition and its role in gambling disorders.

Currently, gambling disorders are recognised as medical conditions that are treatable on the National Health Service (NHS). The UK Government and charity organisations have been concerned because of the rising number of problem gambling rates across the country, both among children and adults. According to official data, the number of people who are considered at risk of getting addicted to gambling is constantly rising, and the easy accessibility of gambling services does not make things easier for the country’s regulators.

  • Author
Olivia Cole

Olivia Cole

Olivia Cole has worked as a journalist for several years now. Over the last couple of years she has been engaged in writing about a number of industries and has developed an interest for the gambling market in the UK.
Daniel Williams
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