GambleAware identifies stigmas preventing access to support services

Almost half (46 per cent) of problem gamblers have not accessed treatment of support due to a lack of awareness and associated stigma, a report published by GambleAware has found.

Citing a hesitation to accept harmful gambling behaviour it was found that 17 per cent did not think their gambling was harmful, or that it only involved nominal figures, as well as 27 per cent identifying perceived stigma or shame as a significant barrier to accessing treatment and support.

Lauded as a “first of its kind” research project, the study was initiated by a group of researchers, including the National Centre for Social Research, who produced the synthesis report.

Researchers also identified several other barriers which could affect whether a gambler chooses to seek treatment and support or not. These included factors such as personal reasons (ill health), a lack of awareness of problem gambling, the mode of therapy and also practical reasons such as time constraints or cost.

“This research has shown that there is a clear need to further strengthen and improve the existing treatment and support on offer, to develop routes into treatment and to reduce barriers to accessing help,” explained Marc Etches, chief executive of GambleAware

“Services have to be flexible to meet the needs of individuals and easy to access. This research shows how the need for support and the way it is accessed may vary according to gender and demographic factors such as ethnic group, location or whether a person has additional health needs.”

Furthermore, when examining potential hurdles to treatment and support it was found that some groups and communities may not be having their needs adequately met, with such services needing to be appropriately tailored. 

Female gamblers were found to be three times more likely than men to refer to practical barriers such as cost, time or location as a reason for not accessing treatment or support.

In addition, although younger adults and people from BAME communities are less likely to be participating in any gambling activities, those that do are more likely to be classified as problem gamblers. 

Research also details that differences in reported barriers highlights a concern that the needs of people from a lower socioeconomic background are not adequately met. Almost a fifth (17 per cent) of gamblers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were likely to report that nothing would motivate them to seek support.

“Meeting the needs highlighted in this report will require partnerships between the statutory and voluntary sectors, both those services specific to gambling treatment and other health and support provisions,” Etches added. 

“Working with those with lived experiences is essential in designing and promoting access to services, as well as helping to prevent relapse. It is important to engage community institutions including faith groups, to help make more people aware of the options available to them and ensure no one feels excluded from services.”

The study also concluded that people’s gambling behaviour, where problematic, impacted on their family and social environment with as much as 7 per cent of the population identifying as an ‘affected other’. 

It was found that as many as one in five (20 per cent) of affected others also reported experiencing gambling harms themselves. Many felt there was a lack of treatment and support for affected family members.

Among the recommendations identified to overcome gaps on treatment and support were continuing to develop education programmes and campaigns to increase awareness and reduce stigma around gambling addiction, as well as tailoring services for those less likely to access treatment.

Dr Sokratis Dinos, research director at the National Centre for Social Research, commented: “A recurrent theme across this programme of studies was related to a lack of awareness of, or hesitation to accept, that gambling behaviour may be harmful. 

“Gambling harms can have a negative impact on the perception of oneself often owing to the associated ‘stigma’. Continuing to develop education programmes and public messaging about the way gambling disorder is perceived, and the development of peer-based, as well as tailored treatment and support services for groups less likely to access those provisions would help to address this and, in turn, contribute towards reducing barriers to seeking treatment and support”.