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To synthesize continuous associations between delayed reward discounting (DRD) and both addiction severity and quantity-frequency (QF); to examine moderators of these relationships; and to investigate publication bias.


Meta-analysis of published studies examining continuous associations between DRD and addictive behaviors. Published, peer-reviewed studies on addictive behaviors (alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, stimulants, opiates, and gambling) were identified via PubMed, MEDLINE, and PsycInfo. Studies were restricted to DRD measures of monetary gains. Random effects meta-analysis was conducted using Pearson’s r as the effect size. Publication bias was evaluated using fail-safe N, Begg-Mazumdar and Egger’s tests, meta-regression of publication year and effect size, and imputation of missing studies.


The primary meta-analysis revealed a small magnitude effect size that was highly significant (r = 0.14, p < 10-14 ). Significantly larger effect sizes were observed for studies examining severity compared with QF (p = 0.01), but not between the type of addictive behavior (p = 0.30) or DRD assessment (p = 0.90). Indices of publication bias suggested a modest impact of unpublished findings.


Delayed reward discounting is robustly associated with continuous measures of addiction severity and quantity-frequency. This relation is generally robust across type of addictive behavior and delayed reward discounting assessment modality.

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