Gambling’s Invisible Toll: Unveiling the Mental Health Crisis Among Young Men

Gambling's Invisible Toll: Unveiling the Mental Health Crisis Among Young Men

The expansion of legalized sports betting across 36 states has driven a surge in the gambling industry. However, experts caution that this growth comes at a price, particularly affecting the mental health of young men.

Easy access to online betting, predominantly through sportsbooks offering incentives like credits and forgiveness for initial bet losses, has a significant hold on the Gen Z demographic.

According to a 2023 report on gambling prevalence in New Jersey by Rutgers University, a third of bettors aged 18 to 24 exclusively wagered online, surpassing those in physical casino settings. This figure is five times higher than a 2017 report from the same institution and exceeds rates in any other age group.

Lia Nower, director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University School of Social Work, recently cautioned about the hidden dangers of mobile gambling. She emphasized that individuals could gamble away significant sums discreetly, causing profound family devastation without anyone being aware until it’s too late.

Experts highlight that mobile gambling is fostering potential mental health crises in young men. The earlier individuals engage in gambling and the more varied their gambling activities, the higher the risk of developing gambling-related problems along with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.

The problem is aggravated by the fact that online casinos are widely accessible to users. Even if gambling is banned in your country, one can easily find foreign casinos, for example, those that accept Canadian dollars. As for these casino sites, players can get them now in a matter of seconds and start playing immediately.

The report also highlighted that men aged 18 to 44 were most susceptible to high-risk problem gambling, with 19% of those aged 18 to 24 at a high risk. Young players aged 18 to 20 were notably more prone to chasing losses and betting beyond their means, according to Responsiblegambling.org.

The upcoming College Football Playoff games are expected to set new records in sports betting. Experts anticipate unprecedented levels of gambling activity, raising concerns about the escalation of gambling-related issues, especially among the younger population.

What draws people, particularly young men, to gambling? Psychologist James Whelan highlighted dopamine as a significant factor. He compared the release of dopamine in gambling to that triggered by substances like smoking, drugs, or alcohol, possibly being even stronger.

Pamela Brenner-Davis of the New York Council on Problem Gambling pointed out that individuals under 25 are more susceptible to addiction, including gambling addiction, due to their still-developing brains.

Nower expressed concerns that the rush towards legalization might exacerbate mental health problems among bettors. Unlike other addictive behaviors like drinking or smoking disorders, signs of gambling addiction might not be as easily noticeable.

Ultimately, the warnings are clear: gambling addiction might manifest subtly without any apparent telltale signs.