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Gambling Problems in US Military Veterans

Abstract

Purpose of Review

Gambling disorder (GD) is a debilitating mental illness characterized by persistent patterns of dysregulated gambling behaviors. Recent evidence suggests that US military veterans are a high-risk population vulnerable to the development of problem gambling. This systemic review examined the published literature on the rates, correlates, comorbidities, treatment, and genetic contributions to US veterans’ gambling behaviors in 39 studies.

Recent Findings

Overall, we found that US military veterans have higher rates of GD (including subthreshold problem gambling/at-risk problem gambling) compared with civilian populations. Further, we found that GD often co-occurred with trauma-related conditions, substance use, and suicidality, which may complicate treatment outcomes. We also noted a lack of published interventions tested among US veterans and standardized screening for gambling problems among veterans across US federal agencies (i.e., Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs) is lacking and remains a significant gap for ongoing prevention and treatment efforts.

Summary

Despite growing evidence that individuals from military backgrounds (active-duty personnel, retired military veterans) are vulnerable to developing problem gambling, limited research has been centered on developing prevention and treatment interventions for affected individuals and their families. The lack of standardized screening for problem gambling among healthcare providers that work directly with US military populations remains a significant barrier to care for problem gamblers.

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Funding

This project was supported by the International Center for Responsible Gaming. The content of this manuscript does not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies and reflects the views of the authors.

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Correspondence to Shane W. Kraus.

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Key Points

• Increasing evidence suggests that US military veterans (“a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable”) are vulnerable to developing problem gambling habits.

• Research on gambling disorder (GD) in veterans has been limited in terms of treatment, intervention, and consistent GD rate estimates.

• Systematic screening for problem gambling/GD in military populations should be implemented in the future.

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Etuk, R., Shirk, S.D., Grubbs, J. et al. Gambling Problems in US Military Veterans. Curr Addict Rep 7, 210–228 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40429-020-00310-2

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Keywords

  • Gambling disorder
  • Military
  • Veterans
  • Problem gambling