Open Access Research article

An analysis of problem gambling among the Finnish working-age population: a population survey

Sari Castrén12*, Syaron Basnet13, Maiju Pankakoski1, Jenni-Emilia Ronkainen1, Satu Helakorpi4, Antti Uutela45, Hannu Alho1 and Tuuli Lahti13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland

2 Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

3 Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Philosophy, University of Turku, Turku, Finland

4 National Institute for Health and Welfare, Department of Lifestyle and Participation, Health Behaviour and Health Promotion, Helsinki, Finland

5 School of Health Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:519  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-519

Published: 29 May 2013



Gambling problems currently affect approximately 100 000 Finns. In order to prevent and reduce gambling-related harms it is crucial for the Finnish public health authorities to gain a stronger understanding of the association between gambling problems and related socio-demographic factors, other commonly co-occurring dependencies (e.g. alcohol and nicotine) and the type of games gambled. In this article the prevalence of problem gambling in Finland and the socio-demographic profiles of problem gamblers are studied.


An annual postal survey entitled Health Behaviour and Health among the Finnish Adult Population AVTK was sent to a random sample of Finnish adults (N=5000) aged between 15 and 64. The sample was derived from the Finnish Population Register. The survey was mailed to the participants in April 2010. Gender differences in socio-demographic variables and Problem Gambling Severity Index PGSI were assessed. A multinomial regression model was created in order to explore the association between socio-demographic factors and the severity of gambling.


A total of 2826 individuals (1243 males and 1583 females) replied to the survey. Of the respondents, 1.1% (2.1% of males, 0.3% of females) were identified as problem gamblers. Those who were of younger age, gender, had less than twelve years of education, consumed alcohol at risk level and smoked had higher odds of having low or moderate levels of gambling problems. Whereas, unemployment and smoking predicted significantly for problem gambling. Females gambled Lotto and slot machines less frequently than males and had more low level gambling problems. Males gambled more with a higher frequency and had a more severe level of gambling problems. Females were more attracted to scratch card gambling and daily Keno lotteries compared to males. In comparison, males gambled more on internet poker sites than females. Overall, a high frequency of gambling in Lotto, daily lotteries, slot machines, horse race betting and internet gambling was significantly associated with a more severe level of problem gambling.


Gambling problems affect tens of thousands of individuals annually, therefore certain vulnerabilities should be noted. Comorbid dependencies, smoking in particular, ought to be screened for and recognised in the public health sector. Regulating the availability of slot machine gambling and enforcement of the age limit should be acknowledged. In establishing new gambling venues, prevalence rates in those particular areas should be actively monitored.