Giving kids scratch-off lottery tickets could be a gamble

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An instant lottery ticket is a fun, harmless, inexpensive gift for a child or adolescent, right? Don’t bet on that say researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine.

Children or adolescents who received gifts of scratch lottery tickets as children tend to have more permissive attitudes about gambling than those who did not receive tickets as gifts,according to a Yale study published this week in in the journal Adolescent Health.

Researchers surveyed about 2,000 Connecticut high school students. In addition to learning that those gifted with scratch-off are more blase about gambling, the researchers also reported a stronger association between age of gambling onset and the severity of problem gambling among those who received lottery tickets. However, the research also showed that other factors — such as depression and alcohol and drug use — were related to the severity of problem gambling whether or not students had received lottery ticket gifts.

The study could not determine whether early gifts of lottery tickets influenced later problem gambling because it did not follow students over time. However, the survey supports recent research that shows the early experience of gambling is associated with future problems such as difficulties stopping gambling despite experiencing major life difficulties related to gambling.

“Our research suggests that family members and friends should consider the possible negative impact of giving children or adolescents lottery tickets as gifts,” Marc Potenza, senior author of the research, said in a press release.

Potenza, also a professor of psychiatry, child study, and neurobiology, notes that the Connecticut Lottery also has cautioned against the purchase of lottery tickets for youth.

The National Institutes of Health and Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addictions Services funded the research. Other authors on the paper are lead author Priya V. Kundu and Yale investigators Corey E. Pilver, Rani A. Desai, and Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin.

Amanda Cuda

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