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Age of Pathological Gambling Onset: Clinical and Treatment-Related Features

Shin, Young-Chul MD, PhD; Choi, Sam-Wook MD, PhD; Ha, Juwon MD; Mok, Jung Yeon MA; Lim, Se-Won MD, PhD; Choi, Jung-Seok MD, PhD; Kim, Dai-Jin MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000031
Original Research

Objectives: This study examined differences in the clinical and treatment-related features of pathological gambling (PG) on the basis of the age of PG onset among pathological gamblers who sought treatment.

Methods: A total of 702 male outpatients with a primary diagnosis of PG and who were treated in a clinical practice were assessed by retrospective chart review. We selected the age of 25 years and younger as the threshold for “group 1.” We then stratified the participants into 4 groups on the basis of the age of PG onset in 10-year intervals. Analysis of covariance with a covariant of age and the Pearson χ2 test were used for analyses.

Results: We found that the earlier-onset gamblers were less likely to be escape type (P < 0.05), used significantly more Internet-based gambling (P < 0.001), and were less likely to engage in nonstrategic gambling (P < 0.05) than the later-onset gamblers. In addition, the earlier-onset gamblers took anticraving medication, such as naltrexone, significantly more often (P < 0.05), and sought treatment significantly more slowly after the onset of PG than the later-onset group (P < 0.01). Regarding adherence to treatment, however, there was no significant difference among the 4 groups on the basis of the age of PG onset.

Conclusions: The age of PG onset is associated with several important clinical and treatment features. More studies are needed to advance prevention and treatment strategies for each age group.

From the Department of Psychiatry (YCS, SWL), Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea; Department of Psychiatry, Gangnam Eulji Hospital, Eulji Addiction Institute, and Department of Addiction Rehabilitation and Social welfare (SWC), Eulji University, Korea; Department of Psychiatry (JH), Sejong General Hospital, Bucheon, Korea; Eulji Addiction Institute (JYM), Eulji University, Korea; Department of Psychiatry (JSC), SMG-SNU Boramae Medical Center, Seoul, Korea; and Department of Psychiatry (DJK), Seoul St Mary's Hospital, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea.

Send correspondence and reprint requests to Sam-Wook Choi, MD, PHD, Department of Psychiatry, Gangnam Eulji Hospital, Eulji University, 202 Dosan-daero, Gangnam-gu 135–815, South Korea. E-mail:

Supported by the Korean Health Technology R&D project, Ministry of Health and Welfare (A129157). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the article.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Received October 10, 2013

Accepted February 10, 2014

© 2014 American Society of Addiction Medicine