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GambleAware research highlights treatment inefficiencies tackling social dynamics

GambleAware has called for the continued development of education programmes to increase awareness of problem gambling after new research showed 46% of those with gambling disorder have not accessed treatment or support.

The charity’s ‘Treatment Needs and Gap Analysis’ report, carried out by a group of researchers including the National Centre for Social Research, also found that 27% of gamblers had not accessed treatment and support due to ‘perceived stigma or shame’.

Women were found to be three times more likely than men to cite practical barriers such as cost, location or time as a reason for not accessing problem gambling treatment.

The research also highlighted that despite young adults and those from BAME communities often exhibiting lower levels of gambling activity, those that do gamble were more likely to be classified as problem gamblers, and were also more likely to access treatment in the last 12 months.

Commenting on the research, GambleAware Chief Executive Marc Etches said: “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. 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.

“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. 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.”

17% of gamblers were reported to be hesitant in identifying their gambling behaviours as harmful and 20% reported that they had experienced gambling harms themselves, while 7% identified as an ‘affected other’.

According to GambleAware, many of those taking part ‘felt there was a lack of treatment and support for affected family members specifically, and not enough signposting to available services’.

GambleAware’s research referenced a population ‘level survey’ undertaken by YouGov, and independently assessed by Professor Patrick Sturgis. YouGov data showed that 54-61% of the population had gambled in the last 12 months, with 2.7% of the population scoring a Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) score of 8+.

In his assessment, Sturgis concluded the true level of gambling harm prevalence lies closer to the Combined Health Survey result of 0.7% of the population, rather than the 2.7% of the YouGov population survey.

Sturgis commented: “In order to identify gaps in gambling treatment and support services in Great Britain, researchers need to understand the size and characteristics of the group who experience gambling harms. The 2016 Combined Health Surveys used probability sampling and respondent self-completion during face-to-face interviewing, whereas the YouGov survey used a non-probability sample and online self-completion.

“These differences in sampling and mode of interview are likely to be driving the difference in the estimates of gambling harm between the two surveys. It is impossible to say with certainty which of the two surveys comes closest to the true level of gambling harm in the general population.

“However, after studying and comparing the two survey designs at length, it seems likely that the true rate of gambling harm lies somewhere between the two, though it is probably closer to the Combined Health Surveys estimate of 0.7% than to the YouGov estimate of 2.7%”

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.”

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