Behavioral addictions such as gambling and gaming disorder are significant public health issues that are of increasing importance to policy makers and health care providers. Problem gambling and gaming behaviors have been identified as being associated with externalizing and internalizing problems, with theoretical models suggesting that both conduct problems and depressive symptoms may be significant risk factors in the development of problem gambling and gaming. As such, the purpose of this systematic review is to provide an overview of research identifying the relationship between conduct problems, depressive symptoms and problem gambling and gaming among adolescents and young adults.
Systematic literature searches in accordance with PRISMA guidelines found 71 eligible studies that met the inclusion criteria, 47 for problem gambling, 23 for problem gaming and one for both problem behaviors.
Based on cross-sectional evidence, both problem gambling and gaming are consistently concurrently associated with conduct problems and depressive symptoms. Longitudinal evidence appears to be clearer for conduct problems as a risk factor for problem gambling, and depressive symptoms as a risk factor for problem gaming. However, both risk factors appear to increase the risk for these problem behaviors.
Discussion and Conclusions
Results from the literature review suggest that problem gambling and gaming are associated with the presence of conduct problems and depressive symptoms, with the potential of sharing common etiological factors. Additional research is necessary to confirm these longitudinal relationships with an emphasis on investigating the interaction of both early conduct problems and depressive symptoms.