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Risk of problem gambling increases after traumatic brain injury


Middle-aged men are prone to problem gambling after suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI), according to a new study by scientists at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

“We found that a prior TBI was associated with an increased subsequent risk of problem gambling, particularly in middle-aged men who reported alcohol use or smoking. We also found the risk of problem gambling was about double in those who had more than one TBI,” says the study’s lead author Junaid Bhatti, who is an adjunct scientist at ICES and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto.

A TBI usually results from a violent jolt to the head or body. A concussion is often termed a mild TBI. More than 200,000 adults suffer a TBI in Ontario each year. While recovery from TBI is the norm, several studies suggest some patients can experience long-term behavioral disorders years after the injury.

The study, published online today in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, found that adults who had a prior TBI were more likely to report problem gambling (5.4 per cent) than those who had not had a TBI (3.5 per cent). Compared to those without a prior TBI, those who had a prior TBI were also more likely to try to win back losses (7.3 per cent vs. 5.0 per cent) and bet more than they could afford (5.8 per cent vs. 3.7 per cent).

The researchers studied more than 30,000 adults in Ontario, of whom about 1,000 had reported gambling addiction.

“Our study suggests the prevalence of a prior brain injury is distinctly more common in those with gambling addiction as compared to those without gambling addiction,” says the study’s co-author Dr. Donald Redelmeier, who is a senior scientist at ICES, a staff physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and a professor at the Department of Medicine in the University of Toronto.

The researchers conclude by suggesting the need for more awareness, screening, and counselling about the risks of problem gambling for some patients after a TBI.

Author block: Junaid A. Bhatti, Deva Thiruchelvam and Donald A. Redelmeier.

The article “Traumatic brain injury as an independent risk factor for problem gambling: a matched case-control study” was published online September 19 in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

For more information, please contact:

Deborah Creatura
Media Advisor, ICES
[email protected]
(o) 416-480-4780 or (c) 647-406-5996


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