Harmful gambling; early education key to addressing urgent public health issue in Wales
Wales must take a system-wide approach to tackle the negative effects of gambling, according to a report from Public Health Wales.
The report highlights the need for early education in schools, increased identification of gambling harm by healthcare professionals, and continued support for those affected by gambling.
The negative effects of harmful gambling are far-reaching and can have serious impacts on not just the individual gambler but also their families, friends, colleagues, and wider communities.
Approximately six in ten people who experience gambling harm also have a substance misuse disorder, around a third experience domestic violence, and over a third have a mental health disorder.
Annie Ashman, Specialty Registrar in Public Health at Public Health Wales, states that a system-wide approach is needed to address the root causes and negative effects of gambling.
This includes breaking down the barriers of shame and stigma, empowering healthcare professionals to identify and refer patients to specialist services, and improving access to support for those affected directly or indirectly by gambling.
She said: “The evidence shows that harmful gambling can have devastating effects on the health and wellbeing of both the individual and wider society.”
“Along with debt, job loss and depression, to name just a few, almost six in 10 people experiencing gambling harms have a substance misuse disorder, around a third will experience domestic violence, and more than a third have a mental health disorder.”
“So we are often talking about multiple conditions that can impact health at the same time.
“A system wide approach is needed to take action on every level of the causes and resulting harms that gambling can have.”
“This includes knocking down the barrier of shame and stigma, early education in schools, empowering GPs and other frontline services to identify and refer on to specialist services, so those affected directly or indirectly can easily access the support that they need.”
“At Public Health Wales we are concerned about increased costs of living and the potential for large numbers of people in the UK to fall below the poverty line, the additional financial and emotional burden that gambling-related harm places on some of the most vulnerable families must be urgently addressed.”
The report also calls for tighter regulation of gambling industry advertising and practices, and for the recognition of the close link between gambling and gaming.
Additionally, the report recommends that prevention should be achieved through evidence-based education, and that services should be integrated and collaborative, addressing multiple health issues where necessary.
Chief Medical Officer, Sir Frank Atherton, said:
“Harmful gambling can have a devastating impact on people’s lives, as well as on their friends, families and communities.
“I have advocated a public health approach to gambling throughout my time as Chief Medical Officer.”
“This publication builds on the work of the report I presented in 2018, ‘Gambling With Our Health’, which made a number of recommendations to tackle gambling as a public health issue in Wales.”
“I welcome this work, which is another step towards tackling harmful gambling in Wales.”
‘Gambling Health Needs Assessment for Wales’ aims to review the needs of people experiencing harms from gambling to inform a public health approach to reducing gambling harm in Wales.
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