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Cost of living crisis could lead to worrying growth in gambling harms among women

As concerns rise that stigma could prevent those struggling from reaching out for support, the charity GambleAware launched a campaign supported by Dr Linda Papadopoulos to challenge stigma and highlight available support

  • New research has revealed one in four (24%) women aged 18-49 who gamble expect to gamble more in the coming months due to the cost-of-living crisis, with one in ten (12%) reportedly already having turned to gambling in an attempt to supplement household income
  • One in five women are also already experiencing health challenges such as stress and anxiety due to gambling (21%) 
  • As concerns rise that stigma could prevent those struggling from reaching out, the charity GambleAware launched a campaign supported by Dr Linda Papadopoulos to challenge stigma and highlight available support

The rising cost of living could lead to an increase in gambling harms amongst women who gamble, the charity GambleAware has warned. New analysis released today revealed one in four (24%) of women aged 18-49 who gamble in Great Britain expect to increase their gambling in the coming months due to the cost-of-living crisis.

One in ten women who gamble (12%) have already reported they turned to gambling to try and supplement household income and one in five (21%) have experienced health challenges such as stress and anxiety. Fears are now growing that the cost-of-living crisis will further exacerbate this over the coming months, with winter already being traditionally associated with a spike in traffic to gambling websites amongst women, potentially causing a worrying growth in gambling harms. 

In response, the charity GambleAware has launched a prevention campaign targeting women, to raise awareness of vital support available for those who may be struggling. The campaign challenges the stigma that impacts women who gamble, encouraging women and their loved ones to spot early warning signs around their gambling and start a conversation before these issues escalate.

Zoë Osmond, Chief Executive of GambleAware, said:

“This new research raises serious concerns over the potential growth in the scale of gambling harm over the coming months. With such a stark warning sign, it is vital we help ensure more women are aware of the risks of gambling. As financial hardships accelerate amid the cost-of-living crisis, and the number of women gambling online increases, we are concerned it is creating a perfect storm, which may lead to a rise in the number of women experiencing gambling harm.

“We must break down the pervasive stigma that prevents too many women from seeking out vital support. If you are worried about your gambling or are starting to lose track of time, spending more than you can afford, or hiding your gambling from others, please don’t hesitate to visit BeGambleAware.org for free confidential support, or call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133.”

The survey which was based on responses from over 1,600 women who gamble revealed how stigma and shame around gambling may prevent women who are worried about their gambling from seeking out support. Among women who gamble, one in three (32%) said they would be reluctant to speak to a family member about concerns over their gambling, with nearly half (49%) of these women stating shame as a key barrier. In addition, nearly two thirds (63%) felt women’s gambling is seen less acceptable than men and one in five (19%) were already hiding or downplaying their gambling.

Dr Linda Papadopoulus, leading psychologist and spokesperson for the campaign, said:

“Gambling harms can impact anyone from any walk of life. It can cause a strain on relationships, affect work, and if not addressed, could lead to significant emotional, physical and financial burden.

“We cannot underestimate the role that stigma plays in preventing women from seeking support for issues related to gambling. It can sometimes be difficult to start those early conversations, but suffering in silence only increases feelings of isolation. Help is often just a conversation away so if you are worried about yourself or a loved one, speak up and reach out.”

Lisa Marie Patton, Treatment Service Manager at GamCare:

“While gambling has significantly grown in popularity amongst women – talking about it has not. As we enter a particularly volatile period It's critical that we break down barriers and taboos and start having more conversations. Opening up may be difficult at first, but I promise you have absolutely nothing to lose, and potentially quite a bit to gain! If you are concerned about your own gambling or that of a loved one, you can contact the national gambling helpline on 0808 8020 133. We’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Approximately a quarter of survey respondents confirmed they may already be experiencing early warning signs of harmful gambling, including losing track of time (22%), spending more money than intended (39%)7 and gambling alone so others don’t see (25%). To promote prevention and encourage people to seek out support early on, a new dedicated online resource has been launched on begambleaware.org. The resource includes practical advice on how to initiate conversations around gambling, as well as details around wide range of free support services.

Harp Edwards, Women’s Residential Treatment Manager at Gordon Moody, said:

Gordon Moody was one of the first organisations to recognise the importance of providing support tailored specifically for women given the unique stigma and challenges they experience. Over the years, demand for our services has significantly increased with applications more than doubling over the past 12 months. We are entering an incredibly challenging period during which we remain committed to continuing to provide vital support to all those who may need it.”

Jo Mustafa, a former compulsive gambler, said:

“Seeking out support for my gambling addiction was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It’s very much a hidden addiction and one that can creep up on you quicker than you realise. When I first sought support there were a lot less options tailored specifically for women, but now there are more and more services and groups that are free, accessible, and available for those who need them – so please don’t wait until you’ve hit rock bottom to reach out. There are people out there who understand and who can help you get through this.”

The campaign launches ahead of the highly expected publishing of the UK Government Gambling White Paper, which is expected to introduce the most comprehensive review of gambling laws and regulations in 15 years. Anyone concerned about their gambling, or that of a loved one, can visit BeGambleAware.org for free, confidential advice and support, or The National Gambling Helpline is available on 0808 8020 133 and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

-ENDS-

For more information, or to request an interview with any of the following, please contact: gambleaware@freuds.com

Data: Between 11th-18th August 2022, Opinium conducted an online survey of 1,606 women aged 18-49 who have gambled in the last month. Link to results here: https://www.opinium.com/gamble-aware/.  

About GambleAware

  • GambleAware is the leading charity (Charity No. England & Wales 1093910, Scotland SC049433) working to keep people safe from gambling harms. We do this by leading public health campaigns and driving the transformation of treatment and prevention services.
  • GambleAware is an independent charity, accountable to the Charity Commission, with an extremely robust system of governance processes in place. The majority of our Board of trustees are leaders within the NHS and public health sector.
  • We work in close collaboration with the NHS, clinicians, local and national government, gambling treatment providers, as well as other services like mental health, substance misuse and criminal justice, to ensure that the whole system works together to help people suffering from gambling harms.
  • Research from our Annual GB Treatment and Support Survey 2021 shows that one in 10 people who gamble are at risk of experiencing gambling harms. Gambling can harm people and their families financially, psychologically and physically. GambleAware works in close collaboration with leading organisations and experts including the NHS, government, local authorities and gambling treatment providers, to ensure that people get the information, support and treatment they need.
  • GambleAware is a commissioner of independent evidence-informed prevention and treatment services in partnership with expert organisations and agencies across Great Britain, with over £56 million of funding under active management.

About the National Gambling Treatment Service

  • In partnership with gambling treatment providers, GambleAware has spent several years methodically building structures for commissioning a coherent system of brief intervention and treatment services, with clearly defined care pathways and established referral routes to and from the NHS – a National Gambling Treatment Service.
  • The National Gambling Treatment Service brings together a National Gambling Helpline and a network of locally-based providers across Great Britain that works with partner agencies and people with lived experience to design and deliver a system, which meets the needs of individuals. This system delivers a range of treatment services, including brief intervention, counselling (delivered either face-to-face or online), residential programmes and psychiatrist led care.