Skip to main content
Log in

The Prevalence of Problem Gambling Among U.S. Adolescents and Young Adults: Results from a National Survey

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Journal of Gambling Studies Aims and scope Submit manuscript


A random telephone survey was conducted with a representative sample of 2,274 U.S. residents aged 14–21. The prevalence of problem gambling, as measured by the SOGS-RA, was 2.1%. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of the respondents had gambled in the past year, and 11% had gambled more often than twice per week. Males had much higher gambling involvement than females, and gambling involvement increased among older respondents. Blacks were less likely than average to have gambled in the past year, but if they gambled, they were more likely to do so frequently. Low SES respondents were less likely to have gambled in the past year, but if they gambled, they were more likely to be problem gamblers. Life transitions that are associated with assuming adult roles (employment, living independently of parents, non-student status) are also associated with greater gambling involvement. The rates of problem and pathological gambling were lower than those in an adult survey conducted earlier, when measured with the same questionnaire.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Adlaf, E. M., & Ialomiteanu, A. (2000). Prevalence of problem gambling in adolescents: Findings from the 1999 Ontario student drug use survey. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 45(8), 752–755.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Burge, A. N., Pietrzak, R. H., Molina, C. A., & Petry, N. M. (2004). Age of gambling initiation and severity of gambling and health problems among older adult problem gamblers. Psychiatric Services, 55, 1437–1439.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Carlson, M. J., & Moore, T. L. (1998). Adolescent gambling in Oregon: A report to the Oregon gambling addiction treatment foundation. Salem, Oregon: Funded by the Oregon Gambling Addiction Treatment Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling. (1998). Gambling and problem gambling among Connecticut high school students. Guildford, CT: Author.

    Google Scholar 

  • Derevensky, J. L., Gupta, R., & Winters, K. (2003). Prevalence rates of youth gambling problems: Are the current rates inflated? Journal of Gambling Studies, 19(4), 405–425.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Fisher, S. (1999). A prevalence study of gambling and problem gambling in British adolescents. Addiction Research, 7(6), 509–538.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hauser, R. M., & Warren, J. R. (1997). Socioeconomic indexes for occupations: A review, update, and critique. Sociological Methodology, 27, 177–298.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jacobs, D. F. (2004). Youth gambling in North America: Long-term trends, future prospects. In J. L. Deverensky & R. Gupta (Eds.), Gambling problems in youth. Theoretical and applied perspectives (pp. 1–24). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jacques, C., & Ladouceur, R. (2003). DSM-IV-J criteria: A scoring error that may be modifying the estimates of pathological gambling among youths. Journal of Gambling Studies, 19(4), 427–431.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ladouceur, R., Bouchard, C., Rheaume, N., Jacques, C., Ferland, F., Leblond, J., & Walker, M. (2000). Is the SOGS an accurate measure of pathological gambling among children, adolescents and adults? Journal of Gambling Studies, 16, 1–24.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., Rohling, M. L., Rohde, P., & Seeley, J. R. (2004). The SOGS-RA vs. the MAGS-7: Prevalence estimates and classification congruence. Journal of Gambling Studies, 20(3), 259–281.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lesieur, H. R., & Blume, S. B. (1987). The South Oaks gambling screen (SOGS): A new instrument for the identification of pathological gamblers. American Journal of Psychiatry, 144(9), 1184–1187.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Liu, L. (2006). Casinos winning big by betting on Asians. Washington Post: The Associated Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moodie, C., & Finnigan, F. (2006). Prevalence and correlates of youth gambling in Scotland. Addiction Research and Theory, 14(4), 365–385.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • National Opinion Research Center. (1999). Gambling impact and behavior study. Chicago: Author.

    Google Scholar 

  • Olason, D. T., Sigurdardottir, K. J., & Smari, J. (2006). Prevalence estimates of gambling participation and problem gambling among 16–18-year-old students in Iceland: A comparison of the SOGS-RA and DSM-IV-MR-J. Journal of Gambling Studies, 22(1), 23–39.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Poulin, C. (2002). An assessment of the validity and reliability of the SOGS-RA. Journal of Gambling Studies, 18(1), 67–93.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Robins, L., Marcus, L., Reich, W., Cunningham, R., & Gallagher, T. (1996). NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule—Version IV (DIS-IV). St. Louis: Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shaffer, H. J., Hall, M. N., & Bilt, J. V. (1997). Estimating the prevalence of disordered gambling behavior in the United States and Canada: A meta-analysis. Boston, MA: Harvard Medical School.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stinchfield, R., Cassuto, N., Winters, K., & Latimer, W. (1997). Prevalence of gambling among Minnesota public school students in 1992 and 1995. Journal of Gambling Studies, 13(1), 25–48.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Volberg, R. A. (1993). Gambling and problem gambling among adolescents in Washington state. Report to the Washington State Lottery.

  • Volberg, R. A. (1998). Gambling and problem gambling among adolescents in New York. Albany, NY: NY Council on Problem Gambling.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wallisch, L. S. (1993). 1992 Texas survey of adolescent gambling behavior. Texas: Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

    Google Scholar 

  • Welte, J. W., Barnes, G. M., Wieczorek, W. F., Tidwell, M., & Parker, J. (2001). Alcohol and gambling pathology among U.S. adults: Prevalence, demographic patterns and co-morbidity. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 62(5), 706–712.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Welte, J. W., Wieczorek, W. F., Barnes, G. M., Tidwell, M., & Hoffman, J. H. (2004). The relationship of ecological and geographic factors to gambling behavior and pathology. Journal of Gambling Studies, 20(4), 405–423.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Westphal, J. R., Rush, J. A., Stevens, L., & Johnson, L. J. (2000). Gambling behavior of Louisiana students in grade 6 through 12. Psychiatric Services, 51(1), 96–99.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wiebe, J. M. D., Cox, B. J., & Mehmel, B. G. (2000). The South Oaks gambling screen revised for adolescents (SOGS-RA): Further psychometric findings from a community sample. Journal of Gambling Studies, 16(2/3), 275–288.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Winters, K. C., Stinchfield, R. D., & Fulkerson, J. (1993). Toward the development of an adolescent gambling problem severity scale. Journal of Gambling Studies, 9(1), 63–84.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Winters, K. C., Stinchfield, R. D., & Kim, L. G. (1995). Monitoring adolescent gambling in Minnesota. Journal of Gambling Studies, 11(2), 165–183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This Research was funded by grant R01 MH 063761 to John W. Welte from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to John W. Welte.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Welte, J.W., Barnes, G.M., Tidwell, MC.O. et al. The Prevalence of Problem Gambling Among U.S. Adolescents and Young Adults: Results from a National Survey. J Gambl Stud 24, 119–133 (2008).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: