CT DMHAS Grant Supports Research on College Students and Gambling

Eleni Rodis, managing director of research for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (CT DMHAS) Research Division at the UConn School of Social Work (SSW), and Wendy Ulaszek, associate research professor at the SSW, recently conducted a study of Connecticut college students and gambling. The research is supported by a grant from the Problem Gambling Services (PGS) of CT DMHAS.

The researchers used a mixed methods approach, including surveys of college students and focus groups with students and staff to investigate the prevalence of gambling behaviors among students, as well as awareness of resources to address problem gambling behavior. More than 1,300 college students from 30 colleges and universities across the state – public, community, and private schools – participated in the online survey. The survey posed questions about:

• Types of gambling
• The Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), a screening tool used to measure the severity of gambling problems in general population research
• Motivations and reasons why students gamble
• Facilitators to help students stop gambling
• Co-occurring issues such as mental health diagnoses

After a year of collecting survey and focus-group data, Rodis and Ulaszek and the research team, including Project Manager Amanda Mihaly (also with the DMHAS Research Division at the UConn SSW), completed a preliminary analysis of their study. They found a high prevalence of gambling among college students in the state: 74% of all students had engaged in some type of gambling in the past year. The two most popular forms of gambling students reported were bingo and the lotto/lottery. Among those who scored higher on the PGSI, internet-based and sports betting were most common.

In addition to these findings, Rodis, Ulaszek, Mihaly and the team observed that the study itself served as an intervention, allowing students to reflect on their beliefs about gambling. It also led college staff to consider changing their practices so they ask students about gambling and provide information about gambling to students and families.

In collaboration with the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, the researchers plan to continue to disseminate the survey and raise awareness about this emerging issue.