In 2019, the Department of Health and Social Care commissioned Public Health England (PHE) to conduct a review of the evidence on gambling harms in England. The review analyzes the various harms caused by gambling from financial harms, such as bankruptcy and employment issues, to family, and health harms, such as suicide. According to the review, gambling harms cost at least £1.27 billion in 2019 to 2020, in England alone.
Approach and questions
This evidence review examined the following questions regarding gambling harm:
- What is the prevalence of gambling and gambling-related harm in England by socio-demographic characteristics, geographical distribution and year?
- What are the determinants (risk factors) of gambling and harmful gambling?
- What are the harms to individuals, families, communities, and wider societal harms associated with harmful gambling?
- What is the social and economic burden of gambling-related harms?
- What are stakeholder views on gambling-related harms in England?
- To what extent has coronavirus (COVID-19) affected gambling participation and behavior?
The researchers used a mixed methods approach for this review, including quantitative, qualitative and rapid review methodologies. Six studies were developed to answer each of the six questions.
Alcohol a risk factor for gambling harm
The review found a clear link between higher levels of alcohol consumption and gambling problems.
74.4% of people who gambled were heavy alcohol users, consuming over 50 units of alcohol (equivalent to 16 pints of beer or large glasses of wine) per week. Only 35.4% of those who gambled did not use alcohol.
Furthermore, alcohol use was a risk factor for subsequent gambling harm among children and young people.
Other key findings from the review
- In 2018, 24.5 million people in England gambled (54% of the adult population, or 40% when the National Lottery is excluded).
- Men are more likely to gamble than women, and this difference is most obvious for online gambling where 15% of men participate, compared to 4% of women.
- 0.5% of the population reached the threshold to be considered problem gamblers, and this proportion has remained relatively consistent since 2012.
- An estimated that 3.8% of the population are classified as at-risk gamblers.
- The highest levels of gambling participation are reported by people who have better general psychological health and higher life satisfaction. However, there is a higher prevalence of at-risk gambling among people with poor health, low life satisfaction and wellbeing.
- Harmful gambling has a different activity profile to general gambling. It includes low National Lottery participation and high participation in online gambling.
- The proportion of children and young people who reported participating in any gambling in the last seven days has reduced from 23% in 2011 to 11% in 2019.
- Around 7% of the population of Great Britain (adults and children) were found to be negatively affected by someone else’s gambling according to the best available evidence from YouGov.
- The report found that gambling can increase the likelihood of some people thinking about, attempting or dying from suicide. Evidence suggests that people with gambling problems are at least twice as likely to die from suicide compared to the general population.
Access the complete research and analysis: “Gambling-related harms: evidence review for England”.