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Disordered gambling: College members’ research highlights UK’s urgent need for independent funding

17 February 2022 Fellows

Work by a team including Professor Barbara Sahakian, a Fellow of Clare Hall, and Dr Christelle Langley, an Affiliated Postdoc, has highlighted key research priorities relating to gambling addiction, and the urgent need for independent research funding in the UK.

Writing in The Lancet Psychiatry, the group of clinicians and scientists set out their priorities for tackling the pervasive problem of gambling addiction, or ‘gambling disorder’.

Professor Sahakian says:

Gambling disorders are a serious problem in the UK, yet remain low on the list of priorities in UK healthcare. There’s a chronic lack of investment and only belated acknowledgment of the problem, which means that the true extent of gambling-related harm and the related resource pressure are ignored or unrecognised. While in the past, gambling largely took place in establishments such as betting shops or casinos, it has now become much easier to access in secret, particularly on smartphones and computers, so we’re seeing numbers increase particularly among adolescents and women. In short, it’s no longer necessary to leave your home to gamble.

Too little research is being conducted into problem gambling – and what research there is is often funded by the gambling industry rather than by independent means, experts suggest. They argue in favour of a 1% statutory levy on the gambling industry that could be administered by one of the UK’s main research funders.

Gambling disorder is a recognised mental health condition – a form of addiction that can have a serious impact on the lives of individuals and their families. It can lead to financial, emotional, and relationship problems, including interpersonal violence, and in some cases, engagement in illicit activities to fund their addiction. Between four and nine people in 1,000 are estimated to experience problem gambling. The disorder appears to be more common in men compared to women and often develops during adolescence and young adulthood. People with gambling disorders have high rates of other mental health conditions, including anxiety and mood disorders, substance abuse disorders, impulse control disorders, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), though these are often undiagnosed. It is also associated with a considerably increased risk of suicide. 

Read a piece by the University of Cambridge for further details on this research.