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Physical and mental health conditions and gambling in England and Scotland

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Published: March 2021

This analysis project uses data from the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey from 2012, 2015 and 2016 to investigate the relationship between individuals’ physical and mental health and their gambling behaviour.

The study investigates the relationship between individuals’ experience of mental health problems, physical health conditions, alcohol and cigarette consumption and their experiences of gambling problems, as well as whether these relationships have changed over time or vary between men and women.

It also uses these data to investigate whether individuals’ experience of mental and physical health conditions and their smoking and drinking habits vary by the type of gambling they undertake (for example, the lottery, online gambling, gambling on land-based activities, or more than one of these).

The research was commissioned by the Gambling Research Exchange, Ontario and is led by Dr Heather Wardle, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow and Dr Isabel Taylor, National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).

Findings

  • Individuals experiencing poor mental health are significantly and substantially more likely to experience problem gambling. This is particularly the case for men, and this relationship persists after other demographic and socio-economic variables are taken into account.
  • High risk drinking (particularly amongst men) and heavy smoking (particularly amongst women) are also highly associated with problem gambling. Gambling therefore appears to be a key public health issue that is highly associated with a number of important risk factors.
  • The health and wellbeing of gamblers varies based on where they gamble. For example, mental health issues were positively associated with gambling online and in land-based venues but negatively associated with lottery only gambling.