Online gambling
Image: Shutterstock

GambleAware has released the findings of a research study which examined the links between early exposure to gambling activity and later life experiences of gambling harm.

The research, conducted online by YouGov last year between October 31 and November 22 with a total sample size of 18,305 adults, aimed to study gambling participation and gambling harm in the UK and its treatment and support needs among those who gamble and those affected by another’s gambling.

The study looked at the impact of early exposure, such as seeing family members gamble or gambling advertising and marketing on TV, and if that can be associated with a greater risk of gambling harm later in life.

The survey also asked questions to analyse where a respondent scores on the Problem Gambling Severity Index – a standardised measure of gambling harm, where a higher score indicates higher levels of harm.

The PGSI uses a list of nine questions on a person’s gambling behaviour to determine if they are at risk or are suffering from gambling harm. A score of 1-2 is classified as low-risk, a 3-7 score is given a moderate-risk classification, while an 8+ score is classified as a “problem gambler”.

Of those surveyed, 13.4 per cent registered a 1-8 PGSI score, while 5.9 per cent were classified with a 3-8 PGSI score. 8 per cent were classified as low-risk, 3 per cent as moderate risk and 2.9 per cent as “problem gamblers”.

Regarding those classified as experiencing significant harm, GambleAware stated that 64 per cent said they knew someone who gambled regularly (once a week or more) before they turned 18, compared to just 25 per cent of non-gambling adults saying they knew someone that gambled.

GambleAware also stated that many viewed familial introduction to gambling as a “turning point” or believed betting was “a hobby that they had inherited from their family that led to harmful gambling”. 

Zoë Osmond, Chief Executive of GambleAware, commented: “As the lead commissioning charity in Great Britain, we are pleased to publish this year’s landmark Treatment and Support Survey. Gambling harms are a serious public health issue and can affect anyone, including an increasing amount of children and young people. 

“We are concerned about the normalisation of gambling across society, with this year’s report clearly highlighting a potential link between early exposure and harms in later life, as well as a worry by parents who feel unable to shield their children from the plethora of advertising and marketing.

“It is also important to end the stigma associated with gambling, which is acting as a key barrier to those wanting advice and support. We encourage people to come forward and open up the conversation about gambling to put an end to stigma and ensure people get the help they need.”

The study also examined exposure to gambling advertisements on TV and mobile apps, with respondents saying it is “extremely difficult to restrict or prevent children from being exposed to such material due to its ‘always on’ nature”. 

The research noted an increase in those aged 18-24 classified as PGSI 8+, rising from 5.1 per cent to 8.5 per cent.

Those classified as PGSI 8+ remain more likely to have used advice, support and treatment than those with lower scores – 5 per cent of those classified PGSI 1-2, 17 per cent of those classified PGSI 3-7, and 66 per cent of those classified as PGSI 8+. 

The report also stated that the number of ‘affected others’ is estimated to be around 3.6 million British adults, while more than 1.6 million children are estimated to live with an adult experiencing gambling harm.

The stigma surrounding gambling was highlighted as a key barrier to many who gamble when seeking support. 48 per cent of those experiencing significant gambling harm felt “embarrassed or ashamed” of their gambling, with many respondents feeling “reluctant to talk about their gambling to family or friends”. 

34 per cent of PGSI 8+ classified gamblers stated they had not used any support or treatment over the past year, with 40 per cent noting “stigma” as a barrier.

The study did also state that 59 per cent of those PGSI 8+ have tried to cut back on gambling over the past year. However, 87 per cent have reported relapsing.

Relapsing also occurs at 72 per cent among those with a PGSI 3+ score, and at 64 per cent among those with a PGSI 1+ score, with financial circumstances, life events, mental health and gambling promotions highlighted as potential triggers.

Kate Gosschalk, a Research Manager with YouGov, added: “We are pleased to share the findings from the fourth annual treatment and support survey. 

“This year, the research – which included a substantial online survey of 18,000 people and 30 in-depth telephone interviews – explored new areas including when people were first exposed to gambling and the effect gambling has on children. 

“This survey can help us learn more about gambling harms in Great Britain and what can be done to ensure people receive the help and support they need going forward.”