Trauma and Gambling

A Scoping Review of Qualitative Research




gambling, trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD, gambling harm, traumatic stress, review, qualitative


Both gambling-related problems and trauma have long been associated with substantial costs for individuals, their families, and society. Existing reviews of research on the relationship between trauma and gambling have thus far been limited to quantitative work. A scoping review of published peer-reviewed qualitative research was conducted to synthesize existing research concerning the relationship between trauma and gambling. Relevant articles were identified through database searches in Ovid MEDLINE, APA PsycNET, PubMed, Scopus, PTSDpubs, and through hand sorting methods. English and French articles that comprised original qualitative research with results exploring the relationship between trauma and gambling were included. A total of 22 articles published between 2007 and 2022 were included in this review. Four major themes emerged during the narrative and thematic synthesis of the articles: (1) gambling as a consequence of trauma, (2) trauma as a consequence of gambling behavior, (3) cyclical relationship of trauma and gambling, and (4) healing from trauma and gambling-related harms. Future research would benefit from the use of qualitative methods in exploring the complex relationships between trauma and gambling.


Akcayir, M., Nicoll, F., & Baxter, D. G. (2021). Patterns of disciplinary involvement and academic collaboration in gambling research: A co-citation analysis. Critical Gambling Studies, 2(1), 21–28.

Afifi, T., Brownridge, D. A., MacMillan, H., & Sareen, J. (2010). The relationship of gambling to intimate partner violence and child maltreatment in a nationally representative sample. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 44(5), 331–337.

Arksey, H., & O’Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: Towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19–32.

Atkins, S., Lewin, S., Smith, H., Engel, M., Fretheim, A., & Volmink, J. (2008). Conducting a meta-ethnography of qualitative literature: Lessons learnt. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 8, 21.

Atwoli, L., Stein, D. J., Koenen, K. C., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2015). Epidemiology of posttraumatic stress disorder: Prevalence, correlates and consequences. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 28(4), 307–311.

Banks, J., & Waters, J. (2022). An examination of the interrelationship between disordered gambling and intimate partner violence. International Review of Victimology. Advance online publication.

Benjet, C., Bromet, E., Karam, E. G., Kessler, R. C., McLaughlin, K. A., Ruscio, A. M., Shahly, V., Stein, D. J., Petukhova, M., Hill, E., Alonso, J., Atwoli, L., Bunting, B., Bruffaerts, R., Caldas-de-Almeida, J. M., de Girolamo, G., Florescu, S., Gureje, O., Huang, Y., … Koenen, K. C. (2016). The epidemiology of traumatic event exposure worldwide: Results from the World Mental Health Survey Consortium. Psychological Medicine, 46(2), 327–343.

Bisson, J., & Andrew, M. (2007). Psychological treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (3). Article CD003388.

Brydges, N. M., Holmes, M. C., Harris, A. P., Cardinal, R. N., & Hall, J. (2015). Early life stress produces compulsive-like, but not impulsive, behavior in females. Behavioral Neuroscience, 129(3), 300–308.

Buchanan, T. W., McMullin, S. D., Baxley, C., & Weinstock, J. (2020). Stress and gambling. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 31, 8–12.

Calado, F., & Griffiths, M. D. (2016). Problem gambling worldwide: An update and systematic review of empirical research (2000–2015). Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4), 592–613.

Cassidy, R. (2014). Fair game? Producing and publishing gambling research. International Gambling Studies, 14(3), 345–353.

Cassidy, R., Loussouarn, C., & Pisac, A. (2013). Fair game: Producing gambling research. Goldsmiths University of London.

Cassidy, R., Pisac, A., & Loussouarn, C. (2013). Qualitative research in gambling: Exploring the production and consumption of risk. Taylor & Francis.

Compas, B. E., Connor-Smith, J. K., Saltzman, H., Thomsen, A. H., & Wadsworth, M. E. (2001). Coping with stress during childhood and adolescence: Problems, progress, and potential in theory and research. Psychological Bulletin, 127(1), 87–127.

Dowling, N., Suomi, A., Jackson, A., Lavis, T., Patford, J., Cockman, S., Thomas, S., Bellringer, M., Koziol-Mclain, J., Battersby, M., Harvey, P., & Abbott, M. (2016). Problem gambling and intimate partner violence: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 17(1), 43–61.

Echeburúa, E., González-Ortega, I., de Corral, P., & Polo-López, R. (2011). Clinical gender differences among adult pathological gamblers seeking treatment. Journal of Gambling Studies, 27(2), 215–227.

Felsher, J., Derevensky, J., & Gupta, R. (2010). Young adults with gambling problems: The impact of childhood maltreatment. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8, 545 556.

Green, C. L., Nahhas, R. W., Scoglio, A. A., & Elman, I. (2017). Post-traumatic stress symptoms in pathological gambling: Potential evidence of anti-reward processes. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 6(1), 98–101.

Hagen, B., Grant Kalishuk, R., Currie, C., Solowoniuk, J., & Nixon, G. (2013). A big hole with the wind blowing through it: Aboriginal women’s experiences of trauma and problem gambling. International Gambling Studies, 13(3), 356–370.

Hamilton-Wright, S., Woodhall-Melnik, J., Guilcher, S., Schuler, A., Wendaferew, A., Hwang, S., & Matheson, F. (2016). Gambling in the landscape of adversity in youth: Reflections from men who live with poverty and homelessness. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(9), 854.

Hare, S. (2009). A study of gambling in Victoria: Problem gambling from a public health perspective. Victoria Department of Justice.$002f$002fSD_ILS$002f0$002fSD_ILS:349015/ada?qu=Gambling+--+Victoria.&d=ent%3A%2F%2FSD_ILS%2F0%2FSD_ILS%3A349015%7EILS%7E2&h=8

Hing, N., Breen, H., & Gordon, A. (2012). A case study of gambling involvement and its consequences. Leisure Sciences, 34(3), 217–235.

Hing, N., Mainey, L., O’Mullan, C., Nuske, E., Greer, N., Thomas, A., & Breen, H. (2022). Seeking solace in gambling: The cycle of gambling and intimate partner violence against women who gamble. Journal of Gambling Studies. Advance online publication.

Hing, N., Nuske, E., Breen, H., O’Mullan, C., Mainey, L., & Thomas, A. (2021). Problem gambling and economic abuse against women: An adaptive grounded theory analysis. Addiction Research & Theory, 30(3), 169–179.

Hing, N., O’Mullan, C., Breen, H., Nuske, E., & Mainey, L. (2021). How problem gambling by a male partner contributes to intimate partner violence against women: A gendered perspective. International Gambling Studies, 22(1), 82–101.

Hing, N., O’Mullan, C., Nuske, E., Breen, H., Mainey, L., Taylor, A., Greer, N., Jenkinson, R., Thomas, A., Lee, J., & Jackson, A. (2021). Gambling-related intimate partner violence against women: A grounded theory model of individual and relationship determinants. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Advance online publication.

Hodgins, D. C., Schopflocher, D. P., el-Guebaly, N., Casey, D. M., Smith, G. J., Williams, R. J., & Wood, R. T. (2010). The association between childhood maltreatment and gambling problems in a community sample of adult men and women. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 24(3), 548–554.

Hodgins, D. C., Schopflocher, D. P., Martin, C. R., el-Guebaly, N., Casey, D. M., Currie, S. R., Smith, G. J., & Williams, R. J. (2012). Disordered gambling among higher-frequency gamblers: Who is at risk? Psychological Medicine, 42(11), 2433–2444.

Holdsworth, L., Nuske, E., & Hing, N. (2015). A grounded theory of the influence of significant life events, psychological co-morbidities and related social factors on gambling involvement. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 13(2), 257-273.

Holdsworth, L., & Tiyce, M. (2012). Exploring the hidden nature of gambling problems among people who are homeless. Australian Social Work, 65(4), 474–489.

Grant Kalischuk, R. (2010). Cocreating life pathways: Problem gambling and its impact on families. The Family Journal, 18(1), 7–17.

Kausch, O., Rugle, L., & Rowland, D. Y. (2006). Lifetime histories of trauma among pathological gamblers. American Journal on Addictions, 15(1), 35–43.

Kessler, R. C., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Alonso, J., Benjet, C., Bromet, E. J., Cardoso, G., Degenhardt, L., de Girolamo, G., Dinolova, R. V., Ferry, F., Florescu, S., Gureje, O., Haro, J. M., Huang, Y., Karam, E. G., Kawakami, N., Lee, S., Lepine, J. P., Levinson, D., … Koenen, K. C. (2017). Trauma and PTSD in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 8(sup5), Article1353383.

Lane, W., Sacco, P., Downton, K., Ludeman, E., Levy, L., & Tracy, J. K. (2016). Child maltreatment and problem gambling: A systematic review. Child Abuse & Neglect, 58, 24–38.

Lee, B., Solowoniuk, J., & Fong, M. (2007). ‘I was independent since I was born’: Pre‐immigration traumatic experiences and pathological gambling in four Chinese Canadians. International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, 3(2), 33–50.

Luo, H. (2020a). An exploratory study through a life course perspective: Gambling among older Chinese people in a Canadian context. Ageing International, 46(3), 253-284.

Luo, H. (2020b). Understanding gambling among older Filipino-Canadians: Recommendations for social work intervention for older gamblers with minority cultural backgrounds. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work.

MacDonald, M., McMullan, J. L., & Perrier, D. C. (2004). Gambling households in Canada. Journal of Gambling Studies, 20(3), 187–236.

MacLean, S., Maltzahn, K., Thomas, D., Atkinson, A., & Whiteside, M. (2019). Gambling in two regional Australian Aboriginal communities: A social practice analysis. Journal of Gambling Studies, 35(4), 1331–1345.

Moore, L. H., & Grubbs, J. B. (2021). Gambling Disorder and comorbid PTSD: A systematic review of empirical research. Addictive Behaviors, 114, Article 106713.

Najavits, L. M., Weiss, R. D., & Shaw, S. R. (1997). The link between substance abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder in women. The American Journal on Addictions, 6(4), 273–283.

Nixon, G., Evans, K., Grant Kalischuk, R., Solowoniuk, J., McCallum, K., & Hagen, B. (2013). Female gambling, trauma, and the not good enough self: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 11(2), 214–231.

Nixon, G., Solowoniuk, J., Boni, L. J., & Grant Kalischuk, R. (2013). Linking gambling and trauma: A phenomenological hermeneutic case study using Almaas’ Transformation of Narcissism Approach. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 11(1), 123–138.

Nuske, E. M., Holdsworth, L., & Breen, H. (2016). Significant life events and social connectedness in Australian women’s gambling experiences. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 33(1), 7–26.

O’Brien, B. C., Harris, I. B., Beckman, T. J., Reed, D. A., & Cook, D. A. (2014). Standards for reporting qualitative research: a synthesis of recommendations. Academic medicine, 89(9), 1245-1251.

O’Mullan, C., Hing, N., Mainey, L., Nuske, E., & Breen, H. (2021). Understanding the determinants of gambling-related intimate partner violence: Perspectives from women who gamble. Violence Against Women, 28(12-13), 3037–3059.

Ouimette, P., & Brown, P. J. (2002). Trauma and substance abuse: Causes, consequences, and treatment of comorbid disorders (1st ed.). American Psychological Association.

Petry, N. M., Steinberg, K. L., & The Women’s Problem Gambling Research Group. (2005). Childhood maltreatment in male and female treatment-seeking pathological gamblers. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 19(2), 226–229.

Polkinghorne, D. E. (2005). Language and meaning: Data collection in qualitative research. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(2), 137–145.

Reith, G., & Dobbie, F. (2012). Lost in the game: Narratives of addiction and identity in recovery from problem gambling. Addiction Research & Theory, 20(6), 511–521.

Reith, G., & Dobbie, F. (2013). Gambling careers: A longitudinal, qualitative study of gambling behaviour. Addiction Research & Theory, 21(5), 376 390.

Saugeres, L., Thomas, A., & Moore, S. (2014). ‘It wasn’t a very encouraging environment’: Influence of early family experiences on problem and at-risk gamblers in Victoria, Australia. International Gambling Studies, 14(1), 132 145.

Saugeres, L., Thomas, A., Moore, S., & Bates, G. (2012). Gamblers tell their stories: Life patterns of gambling. Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.

Schüll, N. D. (2012). Addiction by design. Princeton University Press.

Shaffer, H., & Jones, S. B. (1989). Quitting cocaine: The struggle against impulse. Lexington Books.

Shaffer, H. J., & Korn, D. A. (2002). Gambling and related mental disorders: A public health analysis. Annual Review of Public Health, 23(1), 171–212.

Sharma, A., & Sacco, P. (2015). Adverse childhood experiences and gambling: Results from a national survey. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 15(1), 25–43.

Statistics Canada. (2003). Canadian Community Health Survey - Mental Health and Well-being -Canadian Forces (CCHS-CF).

Thomas, A. C., Sullivan, G. B., & Allen, F. C. L. (2009). A theoretical model of EGM problem gambling: More than a cognitive escape. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 7(1), 97–107.

Tricco, A. C., Lillie, E., Zarin, W., O’Brien, K. K., Colquhoun, H., Levac, D., Moher, D., Peters, M. D. J., Horsley, T., Weeks, L., Hempel, S., Akl, E. A., Chang, C., McGowan, J., Stewart, L., Hartling, L., Aldcroft, A., Wilson, M. G., Garritty, C., … Straus, S. E. (2018). PRISMA extension for scoping reviews (PRISMA-ScR): Checklist and explanation. Annals of Internal Medicine, 169(7), 467–473.

Wardle, H. (2019). Perceptions, people and place: Findings from a rapid review of qualitative research on youth gambling. Addictive Behaviors, 90, 99-106.

Williams, R. J., Rehm, J., & Stevens, R. M. G. (2011). The social and economic impacts of gambling. Canadian Consortium for Gambling Research.




How to Cite

Monson, E., Villotti, P., & Hack, B. (2023). Trauma and Gambling: A Scoping Review of Qualitative Research. Critical Gambling Studies, 4(1), 12–26.



Original Research Articles