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.