Decline In English Problem Gambling Reported

Health Survey for England gives up-to-date assessment of gambling participation and problem gambling rates

A 2012 Health Survey for England study of gambling participation just released by the UK Gambling Commission suggests an overall decline in gambling participation and a reduction in the level of problem gambling in the population, contrary to a number of recent unsubstantiated political and media claims that problem gambling has risen to alarming levels.

The data show that 65 percent of adults (almost 28 million people) in England gambled in the past year. Excluding those who gamble only on the National Lottery, that figure is diluted to 43 percent.

The rate of problem gambling in the adult population is estimated to be 0.5 percent on one measure and 0.4 percent on the other measure used.

Two internationally recognised tools were used to measure problem gambling: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association IV (DSM-IV) and the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI).

In previous prevalence surveys using the same tools and commissioned by the UK Gambling Commission, problem gambling measured as a percentage of adults showed that prevalence of problem gambling was 0.9 percent in 2010 and 0.6 percent in both 2007 and 1999 according to the DSM-IV screening tool.

The second tool, the PGSI screen, showed a measure of 0.7 percent of the adult population being affected in 2010 against 0.6 percent in 2007.

More recently, the Scottish Health Survey (published in September 2013) covered 4,000 adults and showed that 70 percent of adults in Scotland gambled in the past year. Both screens (DSM-IV and PGSI) reported a problem gambling rate for Scotland of 0.7 percent (approximately 32,000 adults).

The Health Survey for England (HSE) was commissioned by the NHS Information Centre and conducted by NatCen, a not-for-profit independent social research organisation.

The number of individuals (aged 16 years and over) interviewed (face to face) in England for the HSE was 8,000.

HSE gambling questions were designed to be broadly comparable with the 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey, which gave figures for Great Britain of 73 percent for gambling participation (56 percent excluding those who had only gambled on the National Lottery draw), with problem gambling at 0.9 percent and 0.7 percent on the corresponding measures.

A UK Gambling Commission spokesperson said that the Commission aims to publish its own in-depth analysis in a series of papers to be published next spring, drawing on the data from both the HSE and the Scottish Health Survey.

Rebekah Eden, the Commission's programme director for evidence and analysis, said:

"The figures suggest that fewer people are experiencing gambling problems directly, but that there are groups of the population where the risks remain significantly greater. This puts even greater emphasis on the industry finding ways to identify people who are suffering problems or who are at risk, and intervening effectively."

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