A systematic review, published in the scientific journal Addiction, has found that globally one in every 400 adults has sought help for gambling problems.
This review is the first to estimate the global prevalence of help-seeking for gambling problems, by synthesising data from government surveys around the world.
Dr Simone Rodda, Associate Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience at the AUT School of Clinical Sciences and co-author of the review, says ‘our study shows that most people with gambling problems will not ever access treatment services’.
“The rates of help-seeking in Aotearoa are similar to global estimates, which means that we can do much more to ensure that gamblers have accessible, convenient and relevant help when they need it,” says Dr Rodda.
Although the worldwide prevalence of serious problem gambling is estimated at 0.1–5.8 percent, only 0.2 percent of the adult population has sought help. These findings reveal a considerable need for help among those experiencing problems related to gambling.
Dr Rodda and colleagues are already working to address this gap by developing online screening and easy to use self-help tools in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and service providers, including the Problem Gambling Foundation and Salvation Army.
Online tools are important if we are going to support people to reduce gambling harm, she says.
In addition to establishing the global prevalence of help-seeking, the review also found that help-seeking was greater among people with higher gambling severity. Around one in five people with problem gambling, and one in 25 people with moderate-risk gambling, had sought help.
Gambling is increasingly recognised as a major international public health concern and many countries now offer help for gambling problems, including professional treatment, non-professional help and self-help.
“The challenge is to make sure this help reaches the people who seek it. A public health approach to gambling problems should be grounded in strong evidence of what people currently do to reduce their gambling harm,” says Dr Rodda.
“Help-seeking includes any action taken to change gambling behaviours. The first step for someone with a problem might be to talk to someone you already know and trust, like a friend or your GP. There is also free professional help available in New Zealand.”
Dr Rodda is a social scientist who heads a research program exploring the prevention and early intervention of behavioural addictions. She is the founder of the Change Strategies Project which investigates implementation planning and goal setting for reductions in gambling, alcohol, internet pornography, internet gaming, sugar, and caffeine.