UK review estimates cost of gambling harm at £1bn+

In the UK, 3.8 per cent are at risk of developing a problem with gambling.
In the UK, 3.8 per cent are at risk of developing a problem with gambling.

The review was conducted by Public Health England (PHE).

UK.- Public Health England (PHE), as part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), released an update of its “Gambling-related harms evidence review,” which shows gambling-related harms have considerable cost to the government and society, likely to be between £1.05 to £1.77bn.

This review has brought together and analysed the best available international research evidence on risk factors and gambling-related harms. The evidence suggests that harmful gambling should be considered a public health issue because it is associated with harms to individuals, their families, close associates and wider society.

The study has estimated that 0.5 per cent of adults have a problem with gambling, 3.8 per cent are at risk of developing a problem with gambling and 7 per cent have been affected negatively by someone else’s gambling.

The evidence review of the health aspects of gambling-related harm with the purpose to inform action on prevention and treatment has used a mixed method approach, including quantitative, qualitative and rapid review methodologies.

A combined HSE survey for England, Scotland and Wales showed that 4 per cent of the population was experiencing some level of gambling harm, as opposed to a 2020 YouGov survey which reported that 13 per cent of adults were experiencing problem gambling. The PHE publication stated that the number is more likely to be closer to the HSE estimate but due to the limited data, it may be an underestimation.

People living in more deprived areas, are unemployed, have poor health, low life satisfaction and well-being, or even show indications of psychological health problems were identified as being at the greatest risk of gambling harm.

As for children and young people in the 11 to 16 age category, the number of those participating in gambling is decreasing, but participation levels increase in the higher age group.

The most socio-economically deprived and disadvantaged groups in England have the lowest gambling participation rates, but the highest levels of harmful gambling and they are also the most susceptible to harm. So, if there are no interventions to improve this situation, harmful gambling is likely to make existing health inequalities worse.

The harms identified in the report and the cost to society suggest that more needs to be done to prevent and reduce the harms associated with gambling.

To address problem gambling, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) will work in partnership with other government departments and key stakeholders to address the knowledge gaps identified in the review to improve data collection and deliver effective and implementable responses to gambling-related harms.

See also: UK select committee investigating government approach to gambling regulation

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Problem gambling