Problem gambling is a serious health issue

November 04, 2004

Problem gambling is a health issue that needs to be taken seriously by all within the medical profession, argues a researcher in this week's BMJ.

The United Kingdom is just about to undergo one of the most radical changes of gambling legislation in its history. The new gambling bill will provide the British public with increased opportunities and access to gambling like they have never seen before.

The health and social costs of problem gambling are large on both an individual and societal level and can include extreme moodiness, depression, absenteeism from work, family neglect, and bankruptcy, writes Professor Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University. In Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, problem gambling has increased as a result of liberalisation.

There are also other worrying trends relating to problem gambling. A US study found that a woman whose partner was a problem gambler was 10 times more likely to be a victim of violence from her partner than partners of a non-problem gambler. Another report in 2003 found that child abuse and domestic assaults rose by 42% and 80% respectively with the opening of casinos in South Dakota.

Pathological gambling is very much the "hidden" addiction., says the author. General practitioners routinely ask patients about smoking and drinking but gambling is something that is not generally discussed.

Yet gambling is without doubt a health issue and there is an urgent need to enhance awareness within the medical and health professions about gambling-related problems and to develop effective strategies to prevent and treat problem gambling.

Inevitably, a small minority of people will become casualties of gambling in the United Kingdom, and therefore help should be provided for the problem gamblers, he concludes.
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BMJ

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