This blog summarises the latest data on gambling harms from the Scottish Health Survey 2021. It also highlights some limitations of this data for understanding gambling harms in Scotland.
The Scottish Health Survey 2021 provides data on the health of people living in Scotland. It collected data on a range of aspects of public health, including cardiovascular health, respiratory conditions, mental wellbeing, smoking, drug and alcohol consumption, diet, obesity, physical activity, accidents and gambling.
How have gambling rates changed over time?
Data for the 2021 survey was published in November 2022. This gives an insight into the gambling patterns of people aged 16 and over in 2021 in Scotland. Data was also collected in 2017 and 2012. Together this gives a picture of changes in gambling and gambling harms over time.
Gambling participation has decreased since 2012. However, when the National Lottery is excluded, there has been less of a change.
How many people in Scotland are harmed by their own gambling?
In the Scottish Health Survey 2021, people were defined as having a gambling problem using the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). People answer questions like: ‘Have you bet more than you could really afford to lose?‘ They score between zero and three depending on if they never to almost always do. People with the highest scores (over eight out of 27) are classed as having a gambling problem. Lower scores above zero (one to seven) indicate low or moderate risk of having a gambling problem.
Who is at greatest risk of gambling harm?
Some people in Scotland are at higher risk of harm from their own gambling. The Scottish Health Survey provides data on how the risk of being a person with a gambling problem varies with sex, age and deprivation. Among those surveyed in the Scottish Health Survey 2021, people in the following groups were found to be more likely to be have a gambling problem:
- people aged 25-34
- people living in more deprived areas, based on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. The Scottish Health Survey grouped areas into quintiles (five groups) by area deprivation.
The chance of having a gambling problem depends on sex. Men have a higher risk of being a person with a gambling problem.
The chance of having a gambling problem also varies with age. People aged 25-34 are at highest risk of being a person with a gambling problem, followed by those aged 35-44.
The chance of having a gambling problem also varies with area deprivation. People in the most deprived areas have the highest risk of being a person with a gambling problem.
Where people are in more than one of these categories of higher risk (e.g. men aged 25-34 who are living in more deprived areas), their risk of being a person with a gambling problem is likely to be particularly high.
What are the limitations of using the Scottish Health Survey to understand gambling harm?
The Scottish Health Survey provides some useful and up to date information about the numbers of people experiencing gambling harms in Scotland. However:
- It does not provide data on gambling by children under 16, even though children are considered particularly vulnerable to gambling harms. The Gambling Commission publishes data on gambling by children aged 11-16 in Great Britain. However, the sample sizes are too small to provide accurate estimates for the proportion of children who have or are at risk of having gambling problems in Scotland.
- The survey does not collect data on the nature or extent of harms. Gambling can affect financial stability, relationships and even lead to crime or suicide.
- Gambling harms can also impact the close contacts of gamblers, particularly their families. 7% of the British population are estimated to be ‘affected others’. However, this survey does little to assess the nature and extent of those harms.
- The Scottish Health Survey does not provide data on the higher vulnerability of some groups to gambling harm, such as specific minority ethnic communities.
- Prior to 2021, the last data was collected in 2017. This five year gap in data collection makes it difficult to assess the extent of gambling harms in the intervening years.
Stakeholders have consistently highlighted limitations in the data collected for Scotland as a barrier to reducing gambling harms. Sweden collects detailed data on the prevalence, risk factors and consequences of gambling and gambling harms as part of a longitudinal study. This could provide a future model for Scotland. The Gambling Commission is also working on a new survey to understand the incidence, nature and severity of harms from gambling both to gamblers and also those affected by the gambling of another.
How can people get help with gambling harms?
NHS Inform Scotland provides information for people experiencing gambling harms, including people harmed by the gambling of another person. People can also phone the National Gambling Helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on 0808 8020 133.
UKRI Intern, SPICe