Cortisol Rise Following Awakening Among Problem Gamblers: Dissociation from Comorbid Symptoms of Depression and Impulsivity
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Gambling pathology has been associated with elevated levels of distress, depression and impulsivity. The present investigation assessed whether these behavioral features would be evident among problem gamblers as they are among pathological gamblers. As well, given that gambling has been associated with increased life stress, as an objective index of ongoing distress, elevations of morning cortisol levels were assessed in problem and pathological gamblers relative to recreational gamblers, and their relations to depressive symptoms and impulsivity were assessed. Recreational, problem, and pathological gamblers (N = 140) completed the Beck Depression Inventory and the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11, and provided saliva samples at awakening, 30 min, 3.5 h, and 5.5 h afterward. Consistent with the view that problem and pathological gambling are associated with elevated life stressors, the rise of morning cortisol from awakening to 30 min following awakening was greater than in recreational gamblers. Heightened impulsivity was evident among both problem and pathological gamblers, whereas depressive symptoms were only evident among pathological gamblers. In neither instance were these psychological indices related to the morning cortisol rise. Indeed, increased depressive symptoms were not evident among problem gamblers, despite the fact that elevated morning cortisol levels were evident. The elevated morning cortisol rise may be secondary to gambling problems or distress related to gambling problems. Furthermore, the sustained morning cortisol elevations may be indicative of allostatic overload, and could potentially be a harbinger for potential health risks among problematic gamblers.
KeywordsGambling Cortisol Depression Impulsivity
Beck Depression Inventory
This research was supported by a research grant from the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre (#2212) to Wohl, Anisman, and Matheson.
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