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When you’re young, everything can seem like a gamble. Often at that age, we are not equipped with the right tools to distinguish true risk.
Now new research is examining gambling itself in young people and how it reflects their decision-making skills in other areas, specifically sex.
Researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health, with colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, wanted to determine how these two behaviors impacts African-American youths from the Baltimore area.
Using data from an earlier study, they wanted to assess if those who gambled were more likely to demonstrate other behaviors fraught with unintended consequences, like STDs or an unexpected pregnancy.
Nearly half of the 427 young people in the study admitted they had gambled at least once by age 18. More than half of those also indicated having sexual intercourse before age 18.
Forty-six percent of those who had gambled by age 18 were determined to be “frequent gamblers” at the time of the study.
Those who had gambled were also found more likely than non-gamblers to have either become pregnant or to have impregnated a partner.
“Half had gambled by age 18.
More than half had sex before 18.”
Nine percent of those who gambled and were sexually active indicated having an STD, a higher rate compared to sexually active non-gamblers.
Study author Silvia Martins, MD, Ph.D. and Mailman School associate professor of epidemiology, said the study demonstrates “association between gambling with an earlier age of onset of sexual activities,” noting similar results where participants were predominantly white.
“Despite evidence that problem gambling is more prevalent among African-American adolescents and adults, few adolescent studies included a large subgroup of African Americans in their samples,” she said. “This study also goes above and beyond prior research as it shows that gambling youth are not only at risk of gambling problems, which are associated with numerous adverse interpersonal, financial, criminal and psychiatric consequences, but also at risk for sex-related behaviors such as adolescent pregnancy/impregnation.”
The report, titled “Gambling and Sexual Behaviors in African-American Adolescents,” was published online in Addictive Behaviors.