Previous research among late adolescents suggests an additive association between levels of engagement in gambling and vulnerability to substance use disorder. The aim of our research was to investigate the frequency of gambling experience in childhood and early adolescence and to examine the association between alcohol/cigarette/energy drink consumption and gambling in this young population.
A survey called “Pinocchio” was conducted during the 2013 to 2014 school year at primary and secondary schools in Padua (north-eastern Italy) on a sample of 1325 students in sixth to eighth grade (11–13 year olds). Multilevel analysis, taking the school-level variance into account, established an adjusted association between gambling and attitude to risk-taking among early adolescents.
Among eighth graders, 45.8% of the boys and 35.4% of the girls reported at least 1 type of gambling. In a fully-adjusted model, having experience of gambling confers a higher likelihood of being consumers (at least once a month) of other substances (alcohol, cigarettes, energy drinks, or marijuana).
Gambling behavior is widespread among adolescents. An association with other risk-taking behavior was found in this study, and this provides further evidence of the need for a greater awareness of gambling behavior in early adolescence.