The Importance of Longitudinal Studies
Gambling is a form of entertainment that involves risking something valuable (often money) in the hope of winning a prize. It can occur in a variety of settings, such as casinos and racetracks, and online. It is a large international commercial activity, and it can also involve materials other than money (such as marbles or collectible trading cards). People gamble in order to win real cash prizes, but they may also bet on sports events, horse races, or political elections. Some forms of gambling are considered illegal, but others are not.
The understanding of gambling has undergone a significant change. Whereas in the past, individuals who experienced adverse consequences from gambling were often viewed as having moral or character flaws, we now consider them to have psychological problems. This shift in perspective has been reflected in, or at least stimulated by, the changes in the clinical classification and description of pathological gambling in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Longitudinal studies, which follow the same group of individuals over time, are important to understanding gambling and problem behavior. In particular, these studies can help us determine how and when gambling behavior begins and develops. They can also help us distinguish between normal and pathological gambling. However, longitudinal data are difficult to obtain, and researchers face many challenges in conducting such studies. These include the difficulty of obtaining adequate funding for multiyear studies; the challenge of maintaining research team continuity and sample attrition over time; the knowledge that aging and period effects confound the results of longitudinal investigations; and the difficulty of measuring the frequency, severity, or duration of problem gambling behaviors over time.
If you have a gambling problem, it is important to seek treatment. The first step is acknowledging that you have a problem, which can be very hard to do. Once you have admitted your gambling addiction, you can take steps to overcome it. Strengthen your support network. Reach out to friends and family members, or join a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. Alternatively, you can try taking up a new hobby, such as an exercise program or art class, or start spending time with friends who don’t gamble. It is also a good idea to seek professional help from a therapist who specializes in gambling disorders.