Excessive gambling is associated with an increased rate of mortality, a new study from the University of Oxford published yesterday in Nature revealed.
A team of researchers led by Dr Naomi Muggleton found out that the top 1% of gamblers spend more than half of their income, 58%, to fund their habits, while 10% of people surveyed spend 8% of their income to gamble.
Gamblers Associated with Lower Lifestyle
Gambling can shift from social to excessive within months and gamblers are associated with financial struggles, lower standards of living, poor health condition and even high death rate, the study revealed, highlighting 37% higher rate of mortality associated with gamblers, while calling for policymakers to improve detection and protection measures and shield those prone to excessive gambling.
According to Dr Muggleton, the study outlined that low level gamblers suffer more from financial distress and poor health, and whether gambling leads to deterioration of lifestyles and health conditions or vulnerable people are disproportionately targeted by the industry via advertising, both scenarios raise concerns and could have serious implication with regards to public health policy.
Once seen as an ordinary pastime, gambling is steadily increasing its presence and visibility due to aggressive advertising and gamblification of sport, but it can also have devastating consequences, the study which used banking transactions rather than self-reported data discovered.
Follow the Money
Following transactions made in 2018 for 100,000 individuals, researchers outlined the average spending per year was £1345, but since the median was only £125, they concluded some of the gamblers spent really large amounts. Moreover, the study discovered that a higher level of gambling is associated with a higher rate of unplanned bank overdrafts, missing credit card, loan or mortgage payments, as well as taking a payday loan.
Transaction data analysis showed heavy gamblers tend to spend less on health and lifestyle as there is “a negative association between gambling and self-care, fitness activities, social activities, and spending on education and hobbies”, which according to the researchers can have a serious impact on lives and is “associated with a higher risk of future unemployment and future physical disability”.
Besides the association with social isolation and night-time wakefulness, researchers also found out the sticky nature of gambling, noting that around half of the highest spenders who were gambling heavily 3 years ago but 6 months prior nearly 7% of them were not gambling at all.
Despite its limitations as it does not consider cash transactions, the study “provides unique insights into the scope and sequencing of gambling harms”, Dr Rachel Volberg from the school of public health at the University of Massachusetts concluded, hailing it as “a real leap in helping us understand gambling harms that will influence thinking in the gambling studies field and beyond”.
Last year, a study published in Lancet Public Health by Dr. Lindsay Blank from Sheffield University called for a change on the perception of gambling addiction, treating it as a health condition alongside substance addiction.