The impact of socioeconomic and income inequalities on adolescent gambling behaviors

  • M. Monaci
  • L. Scacchi
  • A. Vieno
  • N. Canale
  • M. Lenzi


Problems associated with gambling have a social and geographical gradient, with those living in areas of greater deprivation, economically inactive and with lower income being more likely to experience harm. Economic inequality has been verified to be a health determinant, independent of poverty and household income. Little is known about the impact of socioeconomic inequalities on adolescent problem gambling. The purpose of the study is to investigate the contextual influences of income inequality on adolescent gambling severity in a large-scale nationally representative sample of Italian adolescents. Methods: The data from the 2013-2014 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Survey (HBSC) Study was used for cross-sectional analyses. A total of 20,791 15-year-old students completed self-administered questionnaires. Region-level data on income inequality (GINI index) and overall wealth (GDP per capita) were retrieved from the National Institute of Statistics (Istat). Results underscored a North–South gradient for the prevalence of at-risk or problem gambling, with higher prevalence of problem gambling in the Southern/Islands/Central Regions (than in Northern Italy. Multi-level logistic regression, with students at the first level and regions at the second level, revealed that 15-year-olds in countries of high-income inequality were significantly more likely than their counterparts in countries of low-income inequality to be at-risk or problem gamblers. Conclusions: Income inequality may have a contextual influence on adolescent problem gambling severity. Findings suggest that economic policies that affect the distribution of wealth within societies may indirectly influence adolescent gambling behaviors. Macroeconomic factors may have significant psychological costs that go beyond economic welfare.
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