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GambleAware publishes research into links between mental health and gambling harms

11th Aug 2023 Jude Obi

GambleAware publishes research into links between mental health and gambling harms

New research published by GambleAware, the leading charity commissioning gambling harm prevention and treatment services, has found that people experiencing gambling harms are more likely to suffer from a range of mental health conditions than people who do not gamble.

London, 11 August 2023: The relationship between mental health and gambling harms was studied by Alma Economics, using data from GambleAware’s Annual GB Treatment and Support Survey.1

The study found that there is a significant link between higher rates of gambling harms and worse mental health, with a one unit increase in Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI)2 score increasing the probability of someone having a diagnosed mental health condition by 3%. For example, an individual with a PGSI score of 0 has a 22% probability of having a mental health diagnosis, while an individual with a PGSI score of 8 has a 41% probability of having a mental health condition. 

The research also found that almost half (47%) of those experiencing the most serious gambling harms (classified as PGSI 8+) are likely to have a severe mental health disorder such as feeling depressed, compared to 16% of people who don’t gamble.

Other findings include that people at risk of gambling harms, classified as being in the PGSI 1+ category, are four times more likely than non-gamblers to experience suicidal thoughts (26% vs 6%). People classified as experiencing gambling problems on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI 8+) were also found to be more likely to have been diagnosed with an anger disorder or ADHD3; individuals who are classified as PGSI 8+ were found to make up about 2.7% of the total population but account for an estimated 26% of those with an anger disorder, and 15% of those with ADHD. 

The research also looked at how being an affected other – those who experience harm as a result of someone else’s gambling, such as a partner or family member – can affect their mental health. Common negative effects on their mental health include feeling depressed or sad, and having anxiety. In addition, experiencing harms such as having to worry about financial concerns due to someone else’s gambling was associated with a 10% increase in the probability of an affected other feeling suicidal.

Zoë Osmond, GambleAware Chief Executive, said: “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. 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.

“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.”

Nick Spyropoulos, Managing Director, Alma Economics, said: “We are pleased to share the findings from this research. Research into the links between gambling harms and mental health has not been done in this depth, so we are pleased to increase the knowledge base. 

“This research can help us learn more about the link between gambling harms and poor mental health and what can be done to help people receive the support they need going forward.”

It is likely that the relationship between mental health and gambling runs both ways, where poor mental health can encourage more and riskier gambling, while harmful gambling can also impact individuals’ mental health. However, it is difficult to isolate the impact of one on the other to examine causality in more detail. GambleAware will be commissioning more research in future to try and find out more about the connection between poor mental health and riskier gambling. 


Notes to editor

1. The data for the research was based on Treatment and Support Survey prevalence figures, which are likely to be an upper estimate of prevalence in Great Britain. More information on prevalence can be seen in Patrick Sturgis’ methodology review. The research was carried out in two phases. In phase one a desk-based review of evidence on gambling harms and mental health was carried out, as well as a review of literature on individuals who have been negatively affected by someone else’s gambling, known as affected others. In phase two, quantitative analysis was conducted, which included an overview of the estimated prevalence of each of the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) categories, gambling habits (including type of gambling and gambling frequency), and mental health conditions across the wider population.

2. The Problem Gambling Severity Index is the standardised measure of at-risk behaviour in problem gambling. A PGSI score of eight or more represents a problem gambler, scores between three and seven represent ‘moderate risk’ gambling, and a score of one or two represents ‘low risk’ gambling.

3. An ‘anger disorder’ refers to intermittent explosive disorder. It is a self-reported measurement in which participants in the research were asked to select conditions they had been diagnosed with.

About GambleAware

  • GambleAware is the leading independent charity (Charity No. England & Wales 1093910, Scotland SC049433) and strategic commissioner of gambling harm education, prevention and treatment across Great Britain to keep people safe from gambling harms. 
  • GambleAware commissions the National Gambling Support Network (NSGN) which provides, free confidential treatment, as well as the National Gambling Helpline which takes around 42,000 calls a year. 
  • The charity is independent and evidence-based, with a robust governance process in place to ensure the industry has absolutely no input or influence on our work.
  • Gambling harms can affect anyone, and not just those who gamble, but also their families and communities. These harms particularly affect communities that already face inequality.  

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GambleAware Open Code Statement

GambleAware has adopted an open research model to ensure that the research it funds will be transparent and accessible to achieve the greatest impact while ensuring the highest confidence in commissioned work.