Can a brief telephone intervention for problem gambling help to reduce co-existing depression? A three-year prospective study in New Zealand [subscription access article]

Ranta, J., Bellringer, M., Garrett, N. et al. (2018). Journal of Gambling Studies. Retrieved from

Abstract: Problematic gambling and depression commonly co-exist, with limited research indicating that depression and/or psychological distress appear to reduce with brief interventions for problem gambling. The present study was designed to examine the effect, over 36 months, of a brief problem gambling intervention on depression in a population of people seeking help for gambling issues. One-hundred and thirty-one participants were recruited from adult (18+ years) gambler callers to the New Zealand national gambling helpline. They received a manualised version of the helpline’s brief intervention, and were assessed at baseline, 12 and 36 months. Overall, problem gambling severity reduced from a score of 17 (using the Problem Gambling Severity Index) at baseline to a score of 7.5 at 36 months. The percentage of participants with depression reduced from 74% at baseline to 41% at 36 months. For both problem gambling and depression, the greatest reduction was in the first 12 months. Multiple logistic regression analyses at baseline showed an association between problem gambling and depression. Repeated measures logistic regression indicated that reduced problem gambling severity reduced depression and that there was no independent time effect taking place (i.e. the decreased depression was not due to natural recovery). Thus a single brief telephone intervention for problem gambling substantially reduced the prevalence of depression. This has clinical and public health implications with a benefit being that people with depression and co-existing gambling problems may not necessarily need additional treatment for depression if they receive treatment for their gambling issues. View article details, references and access options


Brief Intervention Within Primary Care for At-Risk Gambling: A Pilot Study

Studies on interventions for at-risk gambling are scarce. This pilot study is the first step in a larger project aimed to develop methods to prevent more serious gambling problems. Drawing on experiences from the alcohol field, the brief intervention (BI) model was tested in a primary care setting. Primary care personnel was trained for 2 days. Patients were screened, and those with signs of problematic gambling were offered a return visit to discuss their gambling habits. Of the 537 screened, 34 (6.3 %) screened positive for problem gambling. Of those, 24 were at-risk gamblers whereof 19 agreed to participate. Six of those 19 took part in a 1-month follow-up. Important information for the planning of upcoming studies was collected from the pilot work. Given that the rate of at-risk gamblers was elevated in this setting we consider primary care a suitable arena for intervention. Staff training and support appeared essential, and questionnaires should be selected that are clear and well-presented so staff feel secure and comfortable with them. The BI model was found to be most suitable for patients already known to the caregiver. The number of participants who were willing to take part in the follow-up was low. To ensure power in future studies, a much larger number of screened patients is evidently necessary.