3 mental health risks young people can’t afford to ignore in gambling.

As gambling becomes more accessible, young people who gamble face an increased risk of jeopardizing their mental health. The correlation is undeniable. The rise of 24/7 access to online forms of gambling and “skill” machines located in grocery stores and gas stations provides teens and even children with increasing opportunities to gamble and form an addiction they may not know enough about. This combination of lack of awareness and convenience makes it easier than ever to develop a severe problem, putting the mental health of millions of bettors at risk.


Here at the Nebraska Problem Gamblers Assistance Program (NPGAP), about 68% of our new clients seeking help for gambling issues started betting before the age of 19.


Whether they realize it or not, when it comes to mental health and gambling, the odds are not in the favor of our youth. That’s why it’s more critical than ever to raise awareness about the real mental health risks associated with gambling—especially for young gamblers.

Mental health risk #1: Increased risk of suicide.

The hard truth is that unresolved gambling addiction can end in devastating consequences. And because there are no obvious physical symptoms related to problem gambling, it can be difficult for teens to recognize when to ask for help, or support and intervention from family and friends can often happen too late.

Know this: the link between problem gambling and suicidal thoughts is alarmingly strong. 

From self-reporting of clients of the Nebraska Problem Gamblers Assistance Program, 37.6% of Nebraskans seeking counseling for a gambling addiction had considered suicide at some point prior to calling for help. Another 5.2% had already attempted suicide before seeking counseling. These rates carry more weight when compared to the significantly lower percentages of people considering self-harm in the general population.

Mental health risk #2: Heightened stress and anxiety.

For some young people, habitual gambling may start as what seems an easy way to escape the daily pressures of adolescent life. However, uncontrolled gambling can also increase stress and anxiety.

According to research from Saint Louis University, nearly 50% of people who struggle to control their gambling reported a loss in sleep due to stress, anxiety, and gambling-induced worry. That lack of sleep can affect mood, energy levels, and the rational thinking required to make good choices.

The irony is that, in an effort to feel better, a gambling addict will often end up doing the very thing that ultimately makes them feel worse. Add in the further stress of financial strains—especially when “chasing” losses—and they end up further in debt, creating a never-ending vicious cycle.

Mental health risk #3: Greater risk of depression.

Chronic gambling can lead to feelings of worthlessness, shame, and disinterest. These hallmark symptoms of depression are difficult for anyone to manage, but this is especially true for teens and young gamblers.

Not wanting to disappoint their parents or peers, they may try to hide the problem to avoid the embarrassment of discussing it, feeling like it is something that needs to be solved alone. But actually, the opposite is true.

Covering up gambling (and gambling losses) only intensifies feelings of depression. And isolation from family and friends can break down support systems, damage close relationships, and hurt trust.

Gambling with money is one thing, but gambling with your mental health is simply not worth the risk—the stakes are too high.

The bottom line is that it’s all fun and games until it isn’t.

Early intervention and support are critical in overcoming the mental consequences of gambling, which can have a serious impact on the quality of a young person’s life, relationships, and health.


If you or someone you know is struggling to control their gambling, the Nebraska Problem Gamblers Assistance Program can help.

Our confidential helpline, support services, and resources are free and available to anyone in Nebraska, whether you are struggling with gambling or supporting someone who is.

Connect with Helpline Specialist Justin Antons (MA, LIMHP, LADC, CDGC) by calling 1-833-BETOVER (238-6837) or texting 402-806-7344. He’s worked with hundreds of NPGAP clients across Nebraska and is ready to help you and your loved ones.

Prioritize your mental health and well-being. Contact NPGAP today.




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