Gamblers deny gambling problems until big issues occur says new study

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People with gambling problems are unlikely to identify as having a problem or seek help until they experience serious impacts or harms from their gambling, according to a new Australian Capital Territory study.

The report, Help-seeking and Uptake of Services Amongst People with Gambling Problems in the ACT (October 2011), revealed that study participants who believed they had no gambling problems consisted of people who had experienced some difficulties, but had not yet ‘fallen off the cliff’.

The Australian National University report stated that gamblers who do identify as having a problem, but do not seek help, are an important group because they have already recognised they have problems. Researchers pinpointed this as an important part of the help-seeking process as those who identify as having problems had accessed help.

The report has revealed that when gamblers do access help they are more likely to seek help for issues resulting from their gambling or for co-occurring problems, before seeking help. This indicates a need for a range of problem gambling help options.

The report aimed to gain a better grasp of what encourages people to get help for their gambling problems and what type of barriers are faced by those who don’t receive help.

The study consisted of three separate studies.

Study One compared people with problem gambling symptoms that had accessed services with those who had not and tried to understand the link between those who identified as having a problem and service use.

Less than 10 per cent of people with gambling symptoms had accessed services for gambling related problems. This group had the most severe gambling problems, were also disproportionately more likely to have a history of divorce, have poor mental health, smoke and not have paid work.

The majority (69 per cent of 2,000 people interviewed) of people reporting problem gambling symptoms had not accessed help or self-identified that they might have a problem with gambling.

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of people with problem gambling symptoms self-identified as having problems, but had not accessed help.

Study Two interviewed 35 health and welfare professionals (who might be exposed to people with gambling problems) about help-seeking pathways, and barriers to receiving help.

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