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Debt and problem gambling

Money and dice
Researchers: Jane Kerr
Published: July 2012

Aim

This study explores the relationship between money, gambling and debt through secondary analysis of the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) 2007, a representative survey of English adults living in private households. The APMS included questions about problem gambling and collected comprehensive information about sources of debt and financial hardship. This permits information about the relationship between gambling and debt to be presented for the first time.

Findings

  • 13% of all adults surveyed had been seriously behind on at least one of these payments within the last year: mortgage or rent, utility bills, credit card, or other loans. 3% had experienced serious financial difficulty, and 7% stated that their only or main worry in life was either money or paying bills.
  • Gamblers who were not experiencing difficulties with their gambling behaviour displayed very similar patterns of debt and money problems to the general population. 12% reported that they had been seriously behind on at least one of the payments listed, 3% had experienced serious financial difficulty, and 6% reported that their only or main worry in life was either money or paying bills.
  • For those who were defined as ‘at-risk’ gamblers, a clearer relationship emerges between debt, financial difficulties and monetary worries. Overall, 22% of at-risk gamblers reported at least one type of payment debt, 24% had definite or very severe money problems and 12% stated that money or paying bills was their only concern.
  • When looking at those defined as ‘problem’ gamblers, the levels of financial difficulties experienced were even more marked: 38% had some kind of payment debt and the average number of debt types was significantly higher than non-problem gamblers. 44% had severe money problems, and 7% stated that money or paying bills was their only concern (the fact that this is lower than the at-risk group may be explained by other issues, such as family/work relationships or health issues).

Methodology

  • Secondary analysis of the APMS, in which problem gambling was assessed using a criteria based on the American Psychologist’s Associations Diagnostics and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders IV. 

Briefing paper 1