New study finds connection between gambling addiction and lootbox purchases in adolescents


The research and science continues in the case of lockbox/lootbox purchasing habits and gambling addiction. The latest piece of scientific literature on the subject has been published today in the form of a new study that seems to have found habitual connections between lootbox purchasing habits and gambling addiction specifically in adolescents.

The paper comes by way of York St. John University and University of York researchers. A synopsis shared by one of the journal’s authors, media effects researcher David Zendle, breaks the findings down further, explaining that the more money older adolescents spent on lootboxes, the greater their problem gambling severity appeared to be. The study also found several motivations for lootbox purchases, including a desire to get skins to fit in and the enjoyable feeling of simply opening a box.

“A large-scale survey of 16- to 18-year-olds (n = 1155) found evidence for such a link (η2 = 0.120). The link between loot box spending and problem gambling among these older adolescents was of moderate to large magnitude. It was stronger than relationships previously observed in adults. Qualitative analysis of text data showed that gamers bought loot boxes for a variety of reasons. Several of these motivations were similar to common reasons for engaging in gambling. Overall, these results suggest that loot boxes either cause problem gambling among older adolescents, allow game companies to profit from adolescents with gambling problems for massive monetary rewards, or both of the above. Possible strategies for regulation and restriction are given.”

A similar connection between amount of money spent on lootboxes and an increase in problem gambling behavior in adults was found in a UK study in September, which should be no surprise, as it shares its first author with this new paper. Another study from the UK Gambling Commission found nearly a third of the adolescents it surveyed bought lootboxes. The German Youth Protection Commission also raised some alarm over lootbox practices in February.

With all of that said, Zendle still argues that further research is needed. “Why is it stronger in this group as opposed to adults? We’re not sure,” he writes. “This population is known to be especially vulnerable to developing problem gambling. It may be to do with this – but significant further work is needed to investigate.”

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