Paper in Twin Research and Human Genetics
  • Slutske,W. S., Meier, M.H., Zhu, G., Statham, D.J., Blaszczynski, A. and Martin, N.G. (2009) The Australian Twin Study of Gambling (OZ-GAM): Rationale, sample description, predictors of participation, and a first look at sources of individual differences in gambling involvement. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 12(1), 63-78.

    Two major challenges to conducting a community based twin study of pathological gambling (PG) disorder are that: (a) it is relatively rare, and (b) individuals with the disorder in the community may be difficult to locate and recruit. We describe a new study of 4,764 individuals recruited from the Australian Twin Registry in which we attempt to effectively deal with the first challenge and examine the impact of the second challenge. The lifetime prevalence of DSM-IV PG in this Australian twin sample was 2.2%, which is 400-500% higher than has been obtained in prevalence surveys conducted in the United States. A number of predictors of nonparticipation were identified, including a lifetime PG disorder diagnosis, but these did not have a large net effect on the estimated number of individuals with PG or related characteristics in the twin sample. Results of biometric modeling suggested that the effect of genetic, shared family environmental, and nonshared environmental influences on the propensity to engage in 11 different specific forms of gambling (e.g., playing the lottery, betting on horse or dog races, playing electronic gaming machines) were generally moderate, low, and moderate, respectively, with mean parameter estimates obtained of 43%, 10%, and 46%. An intriguing comparison with results from a 1963 US adolescent twin study conducted by Loehlin and Nichols (1976) suggests that: (a) propensity genes for gambling involvement may be more likely to be expressed in the heavy-gambling Australian culture, or that (b) the family environment has a transient effect on the gambling behavior of young people.