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Problem Gambling and Suicide: the relationship between problem gambling, alcohol misuse and suicide in a population presenting following an episode of self-harm

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Health Sciences
, The University of Auckland, 2004



There has been a growing amount of research in recent years attempting to clarify the connections between problem gambling and suicide. Studies with problem gamblers investigating suicidal ideation and attempts establish strong links, and further evidence highlights the increased risk factor of alcohol in the equation.

The purpose of this exploratory study was to discover any connection between attempted suicide, problem gambling and alcohol in a consecutive series of patients who presented to hospital after deliberately harming themselves. There were 3 aims for this study. The first was to estimate the incidence of gambling problems in a population who have presented to hospital following an episode of deliberate self-harm. The second was to compare the prevalence of problem gambling identified in the study to the general population using currently available statistics in sub-groups of age, gender and ethnicity. The final aim was to investigate the effect of alcohol and gambling on the seriousness of suicide attempts.

Demographic data and the preferred mode of gambling were also collected.

Results showed the prevalence of problem gambling to be high within this population. Of the 70 patients who participated in the study, 17.1% were identified as having a gambling problem. The 95% confidence interval for the data was 9.2% to 28%. Further to this, 75% of this group were identified with an alcohol problem through the CAGE questionnaire and there was strong statistical evidence of an effect of the CAGE score on whether or not a patient was identified as a problem gambler by the Gambling Eight screen (p=.01).

The most significant demographic feature related to problem gambling was shown to be ethnicity. There was no significant result determined regarding the effect of alcohol misuse and problem gambling on the seriousness of the attempt.

All patients who attended North Shore Hospital in Auckland (n=189) from June 9th 2003 to October 31 2003 following a suicide/self harm attempt were invited to complete a questionnaire. This consisted of the Gambling Eight Screen, (Early Intervention Gambling Health Test), the CAGE alcohol screen, and the Beck Suicidal Intent Scale.

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