Survey finds a statistically significant increase in problem gamblers using treatment, advice or support in previous 12 months
GambleAware has today (30 March 2021) released its annual GB Treatment and Support report on a survey conducted (during 2020) on its behalf by YouGov exploring the usage of treatment and support services among gamblers, and those affected by another’s gambling. The report follows GambleAware’s first annual study of this kind, conducted in 2019 (reported by us here).
Findings within the new survey report (that can be downloaded below, together with GambleAware’s accompanying press release) included the following:
- that more than six in ten (63%) ‘problem gamblers’ (PGSI 8+)1 said they had used some form of treatment, advice or support in the past 12 months, compared to just over half (54%) in November 2019 (described in GambleAware’s press release as a “statistically significant increase”)
- year-on-year increases in reported usage of treatment services (from 43% to 53%) and support and advice (from 39% to 48%) among ‘problem gamblers’ (PGSI 8+) and
- that ‘gamblers’ (PGSI 1+) said that treatment, advice and support delivered remotely was better than (44%) or about the same (38%) as accessing this in a face-to-face setting.
Commenting on the above findings, Zoë Osmond, CEO of GambleAware, has said:
It is encouraging to see a year-on-year increase in those classified as ‘problem gamblers’ seeking help, especially during the pandemic. These results will be used to help inform GambleAware’s new commissioning strategy as we continue our work to increase provision of and access to services. The significantly increased sample will allow GambleAware to better tailor existing support services according to local need and allow us to better support local authorities and health commissioners.
The “Conclusions” section of the new report reads as follows:
The study showed an overall pattern of reduced gambling between October 2019 and November 2020, likely reflecting the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and resulting lockdowns on many activities. In line with this, there has been a small, but statistically significant, reduction in the proportion qualifying as gamblers with a PGSI score of 1+. However, this change is mainly driven by a decrease in the number of gamblers falling into the low-risk (1-2) category, suggesting that the overall reduction in gambling participation has taken place predominantly among those gambling at zero or low-risk levels, while moderate-risk and problem gambler levels have remained fairly constant suggesting that gambling may be more entrenched in their behaviour.
Among gamblers with a PGSI score of 1+, usage of treatment, advice and support in the last 12 months has remained largely unchanged since October 2019, whilst gamblers receiving higher scores on the PGSI scale are more likely to report seeking help. There is an appetite for remote support among gamblers falling into the younger and middle age categories, with those who have already accessed it saying that it was better or about the same as face-to-face access. Among gamblers who thought that remote support was better than face-to-face, this tended to be based on a perception that it is more confidential and discreet. Others preferred remote appointments generally or found them more convenient. Therefore, remote support remains crucial during the pandemic, when many cannot access face-to-face appointments, in order to ensure gamblers can access the treatment, support and advice they need.
However, in the qualitative phase concerns existed over the quality of remote support, including the inability to read body language and a lack of eye contact. Some also said that they do not have a private space to talk or were worried about people at home hearing, suggesting that remote support is not for everyone, and a combination of face-to-face and remote support is necessary when tackling gambling disorders. Most gamblers and affected others in the qualitative interviews said they had or would look online (on charity websites such as BeGambleAware.org, GamCare.org and local organisations) for initial advice and for information on support services as a starting point, as the information is generally accessible and free.
When gamblers access treatment, advice or support, on the whole they report finding it helpful, though there is a sense that sources of support (e.g. from a spouse/partner or friends and family) are most helpful. Generally, treatment options were considered less helpful than sources of advice and support. The qualitative insights suggested that the effectiveness of treatment and support is individual and can be linked to how ready and willing the gambler is to seek support and ultimately reduce their gambling, as well as their wider mental health circumstances and the level of support around them from friends and family. This suggests there is a need for a holistic approach to treating gambling disorders, reinforcing the idea that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.
There remains a multitude of barriers to receiving treatment, advice and support with harmful gambling. Many of those stating they did not want any form of treatment, advice or support felt that their gambling was not harmful or that they only gambled small amounts of money. The qualitative interviews confirmed that stigma is a prominent barrier for problem gamblers (PGSI score of 8+) seeking support and treatment, with several fearing they would be ridiculed for their gambling. Denial also plays a role in preventing gamblers from accessing support. This suggests there could be value in producing communications that inform people about gambling-related harms and how treatment could be relevant to them, as well as increasing awareness of treatment services and their suitability for different types of people. In addition to this, re-assurance of confidentiality is paramount.