Sixty eight per cent of 20-year-olds had participated in gambling in the last year, according to a study by GambleAware. While this fell slightly to 66 per cent for 24-year-olds, the study found that more than half of 17-year-olds had already gambled in the previous year.
The findings are part of an in-depth longitudinal study commissioned by the charity, which measures young people’s gambling habits at 17, 20 and 24 years of age using samples of more than 3,500 for each group, as well as survey data and interviews with parents. Regular weekly gamblers were more likely to be male and had already ‘developed habits and patterns of play’ by the time they were 20, researchers found.
Young people whose parents gambled were more likely to gamble themselves, and regular gamblers were also found to be more frequent users of social media. Regular gamblers were also likely to have lower wellbeing scores, smoke cigarettes daily and drink more alcohol, and around 7 per cent already had a gambling problem by the age of 24. Buying scratchcards, playing the lottery and placing private bets with friends were the most common forms of gambling behaviour overall, although levels of online betting activity rose sharply from 9 per cent at 17 to 35 per cent at 20 and almost 50 per cent by the age of 24.
‘We are concerned to protect children and young people who are growing up in a world where technology makes gambling, and gambling-like activity, much more accessible,’ said GambleAware CEO Marc Etches. ‘One in eight 11- to 16-year-olds are reported as following gambling businesses on social media, for example.’
‘Although many young people gambled without any harm, a small minority (6-7 per cent) of males showed problem gambling behaviours associated with poor mental health and wellbeing, involvement in crime, and potentially harmful use of drugs and alcohol,’ added emeritus professor of child health at Bristol Medical School’s Centre for Academic Child Health, Alan Emond. ‘To protect these vulnerable young people from gambling harm requires a combination of education, legislation and appropriate treatment services.’
The December/January issue of DDN will carry a special eight-page supplement on gambling harm.