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Hidden Harms for Young Adults

Guest blogger Jack from GamCare explores why it’s more important than ever to focus on how young adults interact with gambling, and how the organisations which support them can tackle gambling harms.

Recent figures show that one in six students state they have gambled more than they can afford, and nearly one in 10 students having used all or some of their student loan to gamble. A 2019 study conducted by YGAM and Red Brick found that 264,000 students are at some risk from their gambling and 88,000 students are at risk of becoming ‘problem gamblers’. However, evidence suggests that young adults are more likely seek help for drug and/or alcohol (mis)use than they are if they are struggling with gambling. Collectively, we need to do more to support young people who are affected by gambling, as well as providing education to young people before they start to gamble.

GamCare works with many practitioners who say that students are reluctant to talk about gambling problems, or do not recognise when gambling behaviours could be unhealthy. This could be because of social stigma around gambling and money worries, which are often interconnected.

As you can imagine, the pandemic also means more people are likely to be isolated, have more free time and be more worried about money, which all increases risk when it comes to gambling harm. It’s important to emphasise that gambling is not a way to make money – the longer people gamble, the more they will lose.

Here is a round-up of the top questions we get asked by young adult practitioners to help you combat this issue across the services you provide.

Why don’t we talk about gambling?

As a society, we’re divided over gambling. Some see it as a moral failing to gamble, some think it’s a perfectly legal activity and people should be allowed to take part if they want to. Some people are introduced to gambling by their families and friends and it could be a social activity, some people find it by themselves and it becomes an isolating activity. Each set of circumstances are individual, but they usually add up to a complicated picture of how we feel about gambling as individuals and as communities.

If someone begins to struggle to control their gambling, if they’re already conflicted this can add to the shame they feel, and they may not want to open up to the people they care about what they’re experiencing.

There are also no physical ‘symptoms’ of a gambling problem or addiction, so it can be easier to hide a problem from people around you for longer. Couple this with ready access to gambling activities online, and this makes for a concerning picture for people at risk.

What questions should I be asking?

It’s really important to encourage more open discussion about gambling, so people feel comfortable to open up if they are struggling. Talking about whether people gamble, how this makes them feel, and whether this impacts on their lives in any negative way can be a great way to start.