From the Journals

Global data provide new insight into problem gambling



Across the globe few individuals at risk for gambling problems seek help for the issue, new research shows.

In the first study to examine global prevalence of help-seeking for problem gambling, the systematic review showed that only 1 in 5 of those with problem gambling, and 1 in 25 of those at moderate risk for gambling problems have sought help.

“Our findings suggest a considerable need for help among those experiencing problems related to their gambling,” Rimke Bijker, PhD, of the University of Auckland (New Zealand) and colleagues wrote.

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The findings were published online in Addiction.

A public health concern

An increase in online gambling and stress and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic led to experts sounding the alarm about gambling disorders. But despite its emergence as a public health concern, systematic investigation of help-seeking for problem gambling has been lacking, the investigators noted.

In their review, they included 24 studies conducted between 2010 and 2020 and involving a total of 188,234 individuals. More than 70% of the studies were conducted in Australia and New Zealand and 25% were conducted in the United States and Canada.

The overall prevalence of help-seeking for problem gambling among adults worldwide was 0.23% (95% confidence interval, 0.16-0.33).

Prevalence estimates were significantly higher in studies assessing lifetime help-seeking (0.50%; 95% CI, 0.35-0.71), compared with studies that examined current help-seeking (0.14%; 95% CI, 0.1-0.2, P < .001).

There were no significant differences in prevalence by gambling participation, region, type of help-seeking (professional only or mixed options), or year of data collection.

Gambling severity was measured by the Problem Gambling Severity Index as low risk, as moderate risk, or as problem gambling. Help-seeking was highest in the problem gambling and the moderate-risk groups, compared with the low-risk group (20.63%, 3.73%, and 0.27%, respectively; P < .001).

“A public health approach to gambling problems should be grounded in robust evidence on what people currently do to minimize and reduce their gambling harm and this should be inclusive of professional and nonprofessional support and self-help,” the investigators wrote.

Around 40% of individuals with problem gambling recover with or without professional oversight, they added.

Historically, gambling interventions have focused on those with more severe gambling problems. To truly address the issue, gambling reduction efforts should consider individuals with problems across the full continuum of risk, including those experiencing less severe problem gambling, the researchers wrote.

They added that those with more severe gambling issues “are likely to have comorbidities and may require more intensive interventions, guided by professionals,” such as general practitioners, psychiatrists, or psychologists.

Those with a less severe form “may prefer non-professional options and self-help strategies, which highlights the importance of information on such sources of help being promoted and easily accessible,” the investigators wrote.

No funding source for the study was reported. The authors reported no relevant financial relationships.

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