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The Social and Psychological Impacts of Gambling in the Cree Communities of Northern Québec


A detailed survey of gambling, addiction and mental health was conducted with randomly selected respondents (n = 506) from four Cree communities of Northern Quebec. The study examined the current patterns of gambling in relation to demographic, social, and psychological factors. Instruments included the Canadian Problem Gambling Index, Addiction Severity Index, Beck Depression Inventory and the computerized Diagnostic Interview Schedule for psychiatric diagnoses. Overall, 69.2 % of the total sample participated in any gambling/gaming activities over the past year; 20.6 % of this group were classified as moderate/high risk gamblers, and 3.2 % were classified in the highest “problem gambling” category. Considering the entire sample, the overall prevalence of problem gambling was 2.2 %. Women were significantly more likely to play bingo (56.6 %) compared to men (35.1 %) and they played more frequently; 20.8 % of women versus 3.8 % of men played once/week or more often. Compared to the no/low risk gamblers, a greater proportion of moderate/high risk gamblers were cigarette smokers (44.8 vs. 56.3 %), they were more likely to meet DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence (21.2 vs. 46.2 %), and they were more likely to report moderate to severe depressive symptoms in the past month. Risk factors for problem gambling included traumatic life events (physical and emotional abuse), anxiety and depression, as well as drug/alcohol abuse. The high rates of comorbidity between problem gambling, tobacco dependence, substance abuse and other psychological problems demonstrate that gambling among some Cree adults is part of a pattern of high-risk factors for negative long-term health consequences. The results also have implications for treatment, suggesting that interventions for gambling disorders should not focus on gambling alone but rather the constellation of high-risk behaviours that pose a risk to recovery and well-being.

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This scientific communication is a report from the Chiyämäy’timuwin ä nändu’chischäy’täkinüch (“In search of peace of mind”) Project on gambling, addiction and mental health in Eeyou Istchee supported by the Cree people of northern Québec, several Cree First Nations and the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay through financial contributions from the Fonds de Recherche du Québec—Société et Culture (FRQSC), and the Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux (MSSS), Québec.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

The protocol and consent form were approved by the Research Ethics Board of McGill University and the Research Committee of the Cree Board of Health Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB).

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Correspondence to Kathryn J. Gill.

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Gill, K.J., Heath, L.M., Derevensky, J. et al. The Social and Psychological Impacts of Gambling in the Cree Communities of Northern Québec. J Gambl Stud 32, 441–457 (2016).

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  • Gambling
  • Substance use
  • Mental health
  • Comorbidity
  • Risk factors
  • Cree
  • First Nations
  • Aboriginals