GambleAware: Mental health conditions may contribute to problem gambling

The research was conducted by data analytics company Alma Economics. It focused on the ties between gambling behaviours and mental health, based off the pre-existing 2022 data.

This involved conducting a regression analysis, which is a way of finding which variables impact behaviours. It found that a one unit increase in the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) score could increase the probability of someone having a mental health condition by around 3%.

This suggests a connection between a higher volume of problem gambling and poorer mental health.

Most commonly reported mental health conditions

According to GambleAware‘s last annual survey, in 2022 an estimated 1.5 million people had a PGSI score of 8+. This indicates a problem gambler and was a rise of 23% from 2020.

The new research noted an estimated 7.5 million people reported having a mental health diagnosis in 2022. This is up by 11% from 2020.

Depression was the most commonly reported form of mental health condition at 7.2 million. Anxiety was named by 5.7 million, while post traumatic stress disorder was reported by 1.1 million.

Affected others

Also included in the study were the harms experienced by affected others. These are people who are affected by another person’s gambling behaviour, such as a spouse or sibling.

GambleAware’s 2022 survey estimated that the number of affected others in Great Britain is 3.5 million. This was up by 9% from 2020.

Out of those who identified as an affected other, an estimated 800,000 people were also in the PSGI 1+ category.

The most common harm reported by affected others is an inability to trust them. A total of 1.8 million of those affected cited this. Issues with money is also a common theme, with a lack of household income reported by 1.0 million people. A lack of money for larger family costs, such as holidays, was also reported by 1.0 million people.

The research also found that those who experience gambling harms have an increased risk of suicidal ideation. Financial hardship in particular could increase the possibility of suicidal thoughts by an estimated 10%.

How GambleAware aims to explore the issue further

The analysis concluded that going forward, curated types of support could be necessary for those whose gambling behaviours are symptomatic of a mental health condition.

“Our findings found that individuals with higher PGSI scores are more likely to also suffer from mental health disorders,” read the report. “Depending on the underlying mental health condition, different types of support may be necessary to help those who use gambling as a form of self-harm or a calming mechanism.”

It added that “more in-depth analysis of specific demographic groups and their experience with gambling harms and mental health” could be conducted.

“For example, focusing on the gambling experiences of specific age groups, ethnicities, or sexualities and how these groups and their mental health changes varies based on gambling harms faced.”

Zoë Osmond, chief executive of GambleAware said that recognising how gambling and mental health are connected can help to tailor treatment.

“The relationship between gambling and mental health is significant for medical practitioners and gambling support organisations, as it can influence the type of treatment and support that is best suited for each individual,” she said.

“Our findings suggest that gambling harms not only affect the individual, but also the mental health of those around them. Therefore, practitioners and support groups should encourage and provide mental health support for affected others as well.”

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