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Open Access Research article

Gambling problems in the family – A stratified probability sample study of prevalence and reported consequences

Hanne Gro Wenzel1, Anita Øren2 and Inger Johanne Bakken2*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Psychiatry, Orkdal Department, St Olav University Hospital, Norway

2 Department of Epidemiology, SINTEF Health Research, Abels gate 5, 7465-Trondheim, Norway

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:412  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-412

Published: 16 December 2008



Prior studies on the impact of problem gambling in the family mainly include help-seeking populations with small numbers of participants. The objective of the present stratified probability sample study was to explore the epidemiology of problem gambling in the family in the general population.


Men and women 16–74 years-old randomly selected from the Norwegian national population database received an invitation to participate in this postal questionnaire study. The response rate was 36.1% (3,483/9,638). Given the lack of validated criteria, two survey questions ("Have you ever noticed that a close relative spent more and more money on gambling?" and "Have you ever experienced that a close relative lied to you about how much he/she gambles?") were extrapolated from the Lie/Bet Screen for pathological gambling. Respondents answering "yes" to both questions were defined as Concerned Significant Others (CSOs).


Overall, 2.0% of the study population was defined as CSOs. Young age, female gender, and divorced marital status were factors positively associated with being a CSO. CSOs often reported to have experienced conflicts in the family related to gambling, worsening of the family's financial situation, and impaired mental and physical health.


Problematic gambling behaviour not only affects the gambling individual but also has a strong impact on the quality of life of family members.