The now-dissolved Public Health England (PHE) has said more needs to be done to prevent and reduce the harms associated with gambling.
“The evidence suggests that harmful gambling should be considered a public health issue because it is associated with harms to individuals, their families, close associates, and wider society,” PHE said.
PHE made the conclusions in its review published on January 10, 2023, into the prevalence, risk factors and public health harms associated with gambling and the economic and social burden.
The review estimates that gambling-related harms have considerable costs to the government and society, likely to be between £1.05bn and £1.77bn.
Of this figure, it estimates there are between 117 and 496 deaths by suicides associated with problem gambling or gambling disorder, resulting in a cost of £241.1m to £961.7m. This cost represents the societal value of the life years lost as a result of excess suicides associated with gambling.
“The most socio-economically deprived and disadvantaged groups in England have the lowest gambling participation rates, but the highest levels of harmful gambling and they are also the most susceptible to harm. So, if there are no interventions to improve this situation, harmful gambling is likely to make existing health inequalities worse,” the review says.
Additionally, PHE estimates the prevalence of at-risk and problem gambling to be 0.5 percent of the population, based on 2018 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) data.
PHE also estimated that 3.8 percent of the population is classified as gambling at elevated risks, differentiated into low-risk and moderate-risk gambling. This means they might experience some level of negative consequences due to their gambling.
Comparatively, the latest Gambling Commission data reports that the UK problem gambling rate has remained stable at 0.3 percent, but academics are increasingly concerned about the methodology and standardisation used to determine gambling harm rates.
The review follows PHE’s 2021 evidence review on gambling-related harms, in which it estimated that harmful gambling cost English society in excess of £1.27bn a year.
PHE was dissolved in 2021 and its research was handed over to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), which provided the latest update.