Various Agencies Move For Responsible Gambling
In September, Public Health England (PHE) published the first evidence review of harms related to gambling in England. The PHE was commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care in 2019 to examine and review the said harms caused by gambling. The review included checking free online bets and other schemes. Free bets and other deals have been the gateway for people to participate in online gambling.
The review includes the most comprehensive estimate of gambling's economic impact in the country. Gambling harms analysed in the study include financial factors like employment and bankruptcy issues. In addition, the review also took a look at family and relational issues, as well as health.
In addition, the PHE examined the types of people who could be at a risk for potential harm from gambling. It found that those living in highly deprived areas within the North of England are more likely to experience gambling harm.
There is also an apparent link between harmful gambling and high alcohol consumption. 35.4 per cent of non-drinkers participate in gambling, while the remaining percentage (74.4) consume more than 50 units of alcohol on a weekly basis.
The study also found a link between mental health issues and harmful gambling. The researchers reported that gambling could potentially increase the risk of suicidal ideation, as well as attempting or dying from suicide. The evidence gathered suggest that people who struggle with gambling are two times more likely to die by suicide than the general public.
In an overseas study, it was found that people with gambling problems are 19 times more likely to die by suicide.
There was also a keen difference between the attitudes of males and females, as well as those with mental health problems when gambling. Men were 4.2 times likelier to gamble at elevated risks than women. Moreover, people who have mental health conditions are more likely to join harmful gambling practices than people who do not have them. People who said they had mental health issues were around 2.4 times likelier to be identified as gamblers who have or are experiencing a form of gambling harm.
Harmful Gambling: A Public Health Issue
The PHE researchers suggest that harmful gambling should be identified as a public health issue. According to them, it should be qualified as such because of the harm it inflicts on individuals, their friends, families, and the wider society.
The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, or OHID, is working closely with other relevant Government offices to make a work plan to address these problems and bridge gaps found in the review. Additionally, they are increasing efforts in improving the collection of data and in delivering effective responses to the types of harm related to gambling.
According to the PHE's Director of Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco and Justice, Rosanna O'Connor, losing money is just one of the stakes of gambling. There is also a severe effect on a gambler's mental health and a negative impact on the people around them.
Harmful gambling is an issue that needs to be addressed. An emphasis on preventing harm should be put in place, and these should be readily accessible to those who are directly and indirectly affected, said OConnor.
Minister for Mental Health Gillian Keegan said that they are working to protect vulnerable people from the damaging impacts of harmful gambling. They have set up NHS gambling addiction clinics and will invest an extra £2.3 billion a year from 2023 to 2024 to expand on their services.
Keegan is encouraging everyone who is struggling to reach out because support is ready to help them.
Gambling Minister Chris Philp said that they are gathering all the necessary evidence so that they can reset the balance between giving freedom and helping adults choose how to gamble safely. They are also implementing the right protection for those who are at risk of harm.
The ministry is determined to protect vulnerable people from the exploitation of aggressive ads and unfair strategies that victimise vulnerable people.
Jim McManus, Vice President of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said that the evidence of PHE shows a clear picture of what can be avoided if people gamble responsibly. With the cross-government approach, public health approach, and proper funding, it can be easier to reduce the overall risk of harmful gambling.
They are making all efforts to reduce the negative consequences that have been highlighted in the review, McManus said.
Director of the Gambling Commission, Tim Miller, said that they were pleased to receive the independent review from PHE. He added that protecting people from gambling harm is a priority of the Gambling Commission, and they are taking the public health approach as well.
PHE's work will help support the continuous collaboration of a wide range of bodies under the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.
Professor Maggie Rae, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said that harmful gambling is a major public issue. It has recorded serious impacts on health in different ways. The PHE report shows that these harms cover physical, financial, employment, relationships, and even elicit criminal activities.
She is condemning gambling organisations that prey on vulnerable people and their addictions. They promote gambling harms and widen the gap for those who are already facing a disadvantage. The PHE report is a great way to call for concerted actions to tackle this major public health problem.
The call is urgent, especially during these times as the pandemic and lockdowns have pushed more vulnerable people to dangerous gambling behaviours, said Rae.
The NHS has a website to help those struggling with gambling problems.
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