Gambling to Relax and Gambling to Forget: Questionnaire and Daily Diary Studies of Subtypes of Coping Motives for Gambling


InvestigatorsDr. Sherry Stewart, Dalhousie University
Dr. Michael Ellery, University of Manitoba
Dr. Abby Goldstein, University of Toronto
Research PriorityExamine the relationship between co-occurring disorders and at risk/problem gambling, and explore the implications for treatment.
FundingLarge Grant  ($450,000)
Project StatusCompleted


Project Summary

Gambling to cope with negative emotions is related to excessive gambling and gambling problems. However, people experience a range of negative emotions, including feelings of depression and anxiety, and may have different reasons for gambling related to these emotions. As a result, it is important to understand whether the gambling motives of people who gamble to cope with anxiety are different from those of people who gamble to cope with depression: Do both kinds of gambling to cope lead to problem gambling? Motivational models provide important insight into the development of addictive behaviours. These models assume that motives are stable (e.g., Cooper, 1994), but this has yet to be tested with gambling motives. The goal of this research is to examine a motivational model of gambling to cope with negative emotions. This research involves two studies. For the first study, we will collect longitudinal data from 210 community-recruited gamblers in three sites across Canada (Winnipeg, Toronto and Halifax). We will examine the stability of various gambling motives, including gambling to cope with depression and gambling to cope with anxiety, using an expanded version of the Gambling Motives Questionnaire.  We will also collect information about gambling behaviour and gambling problems to test the validity of this modified Gambling Motives Questionnaire.  

In our second study, we will use a daily diary method with 165 community-recruited gamblers to examine the relations between specific negative mood states and gambling behavior.  This study will address the possibility that coping motives interact with different moods, which vary throughout the day, and that these interactions are related to gambling behaviours. By asking people to report on their mood and gambling behaviours in “real time”, we can examine the link between specific coping motives, specific negative mood states, and gambling.  We expect that those gamblers who are highly motivated to gamble to cope with anxiety will show a stronger daily association between anxious mood states and gambling compared to gamblers who are not motivated to gamble to cope with anxiety.  Similarly, we expect that those gamblers who are highly motivated to gamble to cope with depression will show a stronger daily association between depressed mood states and gambling than gamblers who are not motivated to gamble to cope with depression.

Both studies will increase our understanding of what influences movement and stability in gambling behaviours and increases risk for problem gambling.  Results will address whether refinements to existing motivation-matched interventions are needed and will identify precise intervention targets for gamblers who gamble to cope with anxiety and depression.

Cooper, M. L. (1994). Motivations for alcohol use among adolescents:
        Development and validation of a four-factor model. Psychological
        Assessment, 6,



Schlagintweit, H.E., Thompson, K., Goldstein, A.L. & Stewart, S.H. (2017). An
          Investigation of the Association Between Shame and Problem Gambling:
          The Mediating Role of Maladaptive Coping Motives. Journal of Gambling

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