Science / Medicine : Study of Problem Gambling

<i> From Times staff and wire reports</i>

According to a federal study, up to 4.2 million Americans may be addicted to the “high” of placing bets. The figure is about four times greater than previous estimates on the extent of the problem of compulsive gambling nationally.

Preliminary findings of the study, commissioned by the National Institute of Mental Health, also suggest that the stereotypical profile of the compulsive gambler as a white, middle-aged, middle-class male is inaccurate. Results indicate that 36% of problem gamblers are women, 43% are non-white and 38% are under age 30. About 60% have annual incomes of less than $25,000, the study found.

The study is the first major federally financed research into the prevalence and nature of compulsive gambling, a disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Assn. but ignored by most states.