Gambling problems predict suicidality in recently transitioned military veterans

Olivia Metcalf, Greg Roebuck, Ellie Lawrence-Wood, Nicole Sadler, Jenelle Baur, Miranda Van Hooff, David Forbes, Meaghan O'Donnell, Stephanie Hodson, Helen Benassi, Tracey Varker, Malcolm Battersby, Alexander C. McFarlane, Sean Cowlishaw

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Abstract

Objective: This study investigated associations between gambling problems and suicidality in Australian veterans. 

Methods: Data drawn from n = 3,511 Australian Defence Force veterans who had recently transitioned to civilian life. Gambling problems were assessed using the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) and suicidal ideation and behaviour were assessed using items adapted from the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. 

Results: At-risk gambling and problem gambling were associated with increased odds of suicidal ideation [at-risk gambling: odds ratio (OR), 1.93; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.47‒2.53; problem gambling: OR, 2.75; 95% CI 1.86‒4.06] and suicide planning or attempts (at-risk gambling: OR, 2.07; 95% CI, 1.39‒3.06; problem gambling: OR 4.22, 95% CI, 2.61‒6.81). The association with total scores on the PGSI and any suicidality was substantially reduced and became non-significant when controlling for the effects of depressive symptoms, but not financial hardship or social support. 

Conclusions: Gambling problems and harms are important risk factors for suicide in veterans, and should be recognised in veteran-specific suicide prevention policies and programs, along with co-occurring mental health problems. 

Implications for public health: A comprehensive public health approach to reducing gambling harm should feature in suicide prevention efforts in veteran and military populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100038
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Volume47
Issue number3
Early online date11 Apr 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Keywords

  • gambling
  • military
  • suicidality
  • veteran

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