Psychosocial Perspective on Problem Gambling: The role of Social Relationships, Resilience, and COVID-19 Worry

Anu Sirola, Jussi Nyrhinen & Terhi-Anna Wilska

Journal of Gambling Studies (2023)


The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified several psychosocial risks and problem behaviors among vulnerable individuals. Given that gambling has high addictive potential, it is important to consider the underlying mechanisms of problem gambling. This study examined psychosocial factors associated with pandemic-time problem gambling.

Cross-sectional data were gathered via an online survey of 18–75-year-old Finnish, Swedish, and British respondents (n = 2,022) who reported having gambled at least occasionally during the pandemic. Measures included problem gambling, loneliness, COVID-19 worry, social support, and psychological resilience. Control variables included gender, age, and education. Structural equation modeling was used as an analytical technique.

Loneliness was found to be associated with problem gambling. While COVID-19 worry was not directly associated with problem gambling, it predicted higher loneliness, which in turn was associated with problem gambling. Evidence was not found regarding the protective role of resilience or social support in problem gambling. However, social support was found to be associated with higher problem gambling severity. Male gender and younger age were associated with problem gambling.

The results bring insight into underlying vulnerabilities regarding problem gambling during the pandemic. More focus should be placed on the quality and sources of social support, as well as on how psychosocial risk and protective factors might work differently among different populations of gamblers.

Anu Sirola

Dr.Soc.Sci, Postdoctoral Researcher

Researcher in Work Package "The impact of coronavirus on the economy and well-being of young adults in a digitalized society"

social media, youth, social psychology, gambling problems

+358 50 347 4820

Jussi Nyrhinen

D.Sc.(Econ), Postdoctoral Researcher

Researcher in Work Package "Young people as consumers in digital environments"

Marketing, digital consumption, consumer behavior, quantitative research

+358 40 8054459

Terhi-Anna Wilska

Ph.D., Lic.Sc. (Econ.), Professor, Consortium Pl

Leader in Work Package ”Young people as consumers in digital environments”

Consumer research, digitalisation, young people, well-being, sustainability

+358 40 805 4201