A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide, the Australian Gambling Research Centre, and Swinburne University of Technology has found that men and women display different signs of distress when experiencing problem gambling. The study involved a total of 1,185 regular gamblers, 338 of whom were classified as problem gamblers, and was published in Springer’s Journal of Gambling Studies. The findings of the study show that while men and women display the same symptoms of problem gambling, they react differently to the distress that accompanies their addiction.
Men and aggressive behaviour
According to the study, male gamblers are more likely to behave aggressively when losing. They may strike or kick their gaming machines or engage in territorial stand-over tactics to scare other customers away from machines they claim as theirs. They may also be impolite towards venue staff. When experiencing distress, men may channel their emotions into anger and frustration. This makes aggression and territorial behaviour the most distinctive of gambling problems in male patrons.
Women and emotional behaviour
On the other hand, women tend to react emotionally when experiencing problem gambling. They may display visible signs of distress such as crying, or other signs of sadness and depression. Women are also more likely to ask for loans from gambling venues or experience a noticeable decline in personal grooming. These behaviours are red flags for female problem gamblers.
Differentiating between problem gamblers and lower-risk gamblers
The study found that the behaviour of female problem gamblers is generally more differentiated from other lower risk gamblers. This means that it may be easier to detect variations in behaviour for female gamblers than for males. However, it also means that staff may need to spend more time watching potential male problem gamblers before they can be confident that they are displaying behaviour that is different from other male gamblers.
Training staff to identify behavioural indicators
The researchers advise that gambling venue staff be trained to better identify behavioural indicators, to interpret these as a whole within the greater context, and on how to confidently use such information in their interaction with patrons. Some of this training might include a focus on gender differences and diversity in gamblers. By identifying the different behavioural indicators for male and female problem gamblers, staff can offer better support and intervention to those who need it.
The importance of early intervention
Problem gambling can have serious consequences for individuals and their families. It can lead to financial difficulties, relationship problems, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Early intervention is therefore crucial in preventing these negative outcomes. By identifying problem gambling behaviours early on, gambling venues can help individuals access support and treatment services before their problems escalate.
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The findings of this study show that men and women display different signs of distress when experiencing problem gambling. While men are more likely to behave aggressively, women tend to react emotionally. These differences highlight the importance of gender-sensitive approaches in identifying and supporting individuals with problem gambling. Gambling venue staff need to be trained to identify behavioural indicators, interpret these as a whole within the greater context, and use this information to offer better support and intervention to those who need it.