Scots, like everybody else, appear to like a gamble according to the latest Scottish Health Survey results. Seven in ten adults participated in some form of gambling in the previous 12 months and 11% took part in at least four different forms of gambling. In the past decade, the gambling landscape in Britain has changed significantly, especially with the rise of online gambling opportunities. In 2012, 8% of adults had gambled online (not including National Lottery), with men three times more likely than women to do so.
Some people, however, experience harm from their gambling. Gambling becomes a problem when someone does it to ‘a degree which compromises disrupts or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits.’ In 2012, 0.7% of the adults living in private homes in Scotland were problem gamblers, a level similar to that reported for Scotland in the 1999 British Gambling Prevalence Survey. Whilst this latest evidence doesn’t necessarily point to a worsening situation, nor does it point to an improving situation.
Gambling, and problem gambling specifically, is just as much of an important public health issue in Scotland as anywhere else; problem gambling can have an adverse affect on a person’s mental and physical health and is known to be associated with experience of depression, insomnia, stress-related disorders as well as experience of comorbid disorders such as alcohol abuse or dependence. The British Medical Association have, in the past, highlighted the insufficient treatment facilities available for gambling problems and argued that specific services for problem gambling treatment should be provided through the NHS. The Scottish Health Survey results highlight that around 30,000 adults in Scotland are problem gamblers, and a further 175,300 adults are at low or moderate risk of harm. Consideration therefore needs to be given to how best provide support and treatment for people experiencing harm from their gambling behaviour.
i Lesieur H.R, Rosenthal M.D. (1991). Pathological gambling: A review of the literature (prepared for the American Psychiatric Association Task Force on DSM-IV Committee on disorders of impulse control not elsewhere classified). Journal of Gambling Studies 7, 1, 5-40.