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Of time and The Chase: Lifetime versus past-year measures of pathological gambling

Marianna Toce-Gerstein, Dean R. Gerstein


Objective: This analysis tested whether past-year measures can be shown to have methodological advantages over lifetime measures of pathological gambling based on DSM-IV criteria.

Methods: Two stratified random-sample surveys (n=2,417, n=530) of gambling behavior and correlates were conducted with community-based U.S. adults. A fully structured questionnaire, administered by trained interviewers, screened for lifetime and past-year prevalence of the 10 DSM-IV criteria for pathological gambling.

Sample: The study sample comprised 1,216 gamblers who were administered the pathological gambling screen, with particular attention given to the 400 gamblers who reported one or more gambling-related problems.

Results: Pathological gambling criteria as measured by lifetime items showed greater consistency with past-year items than was true for other levels of gambling problems. Neither lifetime nor past-year measures were positively related to the age of the respondent.

Conclusion: These findings deny the presumptively greater accuracy of past-year over lifetime measures of pathological gambling based on DSM-IV criteria in prevalence studies in the general population. In view of greater conceptual fidelity to DSM-IV concepts, lifetime measures appear preferable to past-year.


pathological gambling; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; chronic disease

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