A recent study by Swansea University, looking into gambling and wellbeing in the Royal Air Force, stated that its findings are “enough to suggest” that gambling could be a problem within the RAF, despite it affecting a minority of the serving community.
The study, in collaboration with the RAF Benevolent Fund and said to be the “first-of-its-kind”, involved a survey of more than 2,000 serving members of the RAF, with two per cent found to be affected by problem gambling.
The university findings stated that RAF personnel are “more likely to experience gambling problems than the general population”, whilst also revealing that, in the past year, 67.9 per cent of those who responded to the university’s study had gambled in some capacity.
Of those that gambled in the past year, 84.4 per cent reported that they had no gambling problems, with 9.8 per cent of responses indicating low levels of risk, 3.9 per cent gave responses indicative of moderate risk, and two per cent had PGSI scores that are indicative of problem gambling.
Professor Simon Dymond, from the School of Psychology and principal investigator on the study, said: “This internationally significant, large-scale study shows, for the first time, that serving members of the RAF are vulnerable to gambling-related harm.
“It is important that we follow up this finding with targeted help and support, including the early identification of potential harms that arise from gambling among currently serving personnel from all services.”
Within the survey, the most popular forms of gambling was the National Lottery at 76.3 per cent of respondents, followed by other lotteries at 35.5 per cent, scratch cards at 30.5 per cent and online betting at 23.7 per cent.
Moreover, RAF personnel also reported gambling with cryptocurrency, online role-playing games, and TV, radio, and magazine competitions.
The research, conducted by Dr Amy Pritchard from Swansea University’s School of Psychology, also showed gambling problems interlinked with broader wellbeing issues such as alcohol use and mental health.
Risk factors for problem gambling in the RAF included being male, aged 18-24, and of non-commissioned rank.
Air vice-marshal Chris Elliot, controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund, added: “We are committed to providing the serving RAF community with appropriate support, and this research will help inform our emotional wellbeing services moving forwards.”
In the report, Anna Hemmings, chief executive at GamCare, stated the findings “reinforces” that gambling harms can be prevalent in young men, amongst under-served groups, and a “notable level of harm” deemed low-risk or moderate-risk.
She added: “GamCare welcomes this work by the RAF Benevolent Fund and Swansea University which provides an important, evidence-based understanding of how gambling can impact the RAF Family.
“Gambling harm affects each person and community differently and therefore the unique insights provided by this research are highly valuable
“This motivates us to ensure that high levels of awareness and support on gambling harm are fostered, even where harm may not be obvious, and that support should be tailored to the needs of specific groups of people.”
In light of the findings, the RAF Benevolent Fund provided key recommendations, including that awareness of gambling and potential problems is raised among serving personnel.
Moreover, it calls for increased screening to pinpoint gambling problems with particular risk factors within the RAF, additional training and education, further research to be carried out and the Ministry of Defence to consider the report and its relevance to their personnel.