Problem gambling not only impacts those directly involved, but also the concerned significant others (CSOs) of problem gamblers. The aims of this study were to investigate the proportion of male and female CSOs at the population level; to investigate who the CSOs were concerned about; and to investigate sociodemographic factors, gender differences, gambling behaviour, and health and well-being among CSOs and non-CSOs.
The data (n = 4484) were based on a cross-sectional population study. Structured telephone interviews were conducted in 2011–2012. The data were weighted based on age, gender and residency. The respondents were defined as CSOs if they reported that at least one of their significant others (father, mother, sister/brother, grandparent, spouse, own child/children, close friend) had had gambling problems. Statistical significance was determined by chi-squared and Fisher’s exact tests, and logistic regression analysis.
Altogether, 19.3% of the respondents were identified as CSOs. Most commonly, the problem gambler was a close friend (12.4%) of the CSO. The percentage of close friends having a gambling problem was larger among male CSOs (14.4%) compared with female CSOs (10.3%; p ≤ 0.001), while the percentage of partners with gambling problem was larger among females (2.6%) than among males (0.8%; p ≤ 0.001). In the best fitting model, the odds ratio (95% CI) of being a male CSO was 2.03 (1.24–3.31) for past-year gambling problems, 1.46 (1.08–1.97) for loneliness and 1.78 (1.38–2.29) for risky alcohol consumption. The odds ratio (95% CI) of being a female CSO was 1.51 (1.09–2.08) for past-year gambling involvement, 3.05 (1.18-7.90) for past-year gambling problems, 2.21 (1.24–3.93) for mental health problems, 1.39 (1.03–1.89) for loneliness and 1.97 (1.43–2.71) for daily smoking.
CSOs of problem gamblers often experience cumulating problems such as their own risky gambling behaviour, health problems and other addictive disorders. The clearest gender difference was seen in smoking by CSO. In order to develop efficient and targeted support and services for CSOs, it is necessary to understand the correlates related to different subgroups of CSOs.