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Relative deprivation and disordered gambling in youths
  1. Frank J Elgar1,
  2. Natale Canale2,
  3. Michael J A Wohl3,
  4. Michela Lenzi2,
  5. Alessio Vieno2
  1. 1 Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
  2. 2 Department of Developmental and Social Psychology, University of Padova, Padova, Italy
  3. 3 Department of Psychology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Frank J Elgar, Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill University, Montreal H3A1A3, Canada; frank.elgar{at}


Background Previous research has found that area-level income inequality and individual-level relative deprivation both contribute to disordered gambling in adults. However, the socioeconomic factors that contribute to disordered gambling in youths and protective factors in their social environment have not been fully explored. This study examined the association between relative deprivation and youth disordered gambling and the potential moderating role of social support in this association.

Methods We used data on family material assets and self-reported symptoms of disordered gambling symptoms in 19 321 participants of the 2013/2014 Italian Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study. Relative deprivation was measured using the Yitzhaki index and classmates as a social reference group. Its association with disordered gambling was tested using multilevel negative binomial regression analyses. We also tested moderated effects of relative deprivation on disordered gambling by four sources of social support: families, peers, teachers and classmates.

Results Relative deprivation related to a fourfold increase in the rate of disordered gambling symptoms (incidence rate ratio=4.18) after differences in absolute family wealth and other variables were statistically controlled. Symptoms were also more prevalent in males, first-generation immigrants and less supported youth. Peer support moderated the association between relative deprivation and symptoms, suggesting that high deprivation and low peer support have interactive links to disordered gambling.

Conclusion Relative deprivation among classmates relate to youth symptoms of disordered gambling. Youth who live in economically unequal settings and perceive a lack of social support may be at greatest risk.

  • economics
  • inequalities
  • social epidemiology
  • socio-economic
  • child health

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  • Contributors FJE, NC and AV conceptualised and designed the study. FJE analysed the data and wrote up the results. NC, MJAW and ML reviewed the literature and wrote sections of the article. All authors equally contributed to interpreting the results, critically reviewed and edited early drafts of the manuscript, approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

  • Funding Data collection was funded by the Project ‘Il Progetto di SorveglianzaHBSC (Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children) per la PopolazioneItaliana in età adolescenziale: fattori di rischio erisorse utilialla salute per informare le politiche regionali’. The writing of this article was supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Canada Research Chairs programme awarded to FJE.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Detail has been removed from this case description/these case descriptions to ensure anonymity. The editors and reviewers have seen the detailed information available and are satisfied that the information backs up the case the authors are making.

  • Ethics approval University of Turin’s ethics committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement International data from the WHO Health Behaviour in School-aged Children can be accessed from