- »Study Emerges from NSW-Funded Research at ANU
Study Emerges from NSW-Funded Research at ANU
When the New South Wales Office of Responsible Gambling set its goals for 2019 through 2021, universities benefited. Almost from the beginning, the Responsible Gambling Fund distributed monies to NSW universities for projects and studies related to gambling harm reduction.
One of those distributions benefited Australian National University in Canberra. NSW funded its project, and researchers released their report just last week.
Original Funding for ANU
The NSW Office of Responsible Gambling distributed nearly $400K to five NSW universities in mid-2019. All had submitted projects requiring funding, and the Responsible Gambling Fund put those projects into motion.
NSW distributed funds to the University of Technology in Sydney, Central Queensland University, Deakin University in Victoria, University of Sydney Business School, and Australian National University Canberra. The ANU funding was dedicated to a project addressing gambling harms experienced by female-concerned significant others.
The overall goal of the research is to provide a base of evidence for the development of more helpful policies, interventions, and responsible gambling programs.
ANU Study Overview
The date of the study is December 2019, but NSW just released the ANU study findings last week.
“The Gambling Support Study: Understanding gambling harm experienced by female affected others” project from the ANU Centre for Gambling Research lists Research Fellow Megan Whitty and Centre Director Marisa Paterson as its authors.
ANU’s research examined the impact of gambling-related harm on a gambler’s partner, family, friends, and colleagues. What they found was that gambling-related harm is not restricted solely to the gambler; it may be farther-reaching than previously thought. This can manifest itself in relationship conflicts, emotional distress, and reduced performance in work and school.
Women affected by a problem gambler’s behavior rarely seek help in any formal capacity. Whitty noted, “We know women are disproportionately represented when it comes to experiencing the negative effects of a family member’s gambling.”
Whitt explained, “There is limited research into motivators or barriers for these women when it comes to seeking help. So, it’s really vital that we take a long, hard look at what is stopping women, and other people, from seeking help and what we can do to change that.”
For this study, ANU researchers spoke to 45 people in NSW and the ACT in July and August 2019. This group included gambling counselors and people living with the results of gambling-related harm from a partner or close family member.
The key findings as identified in the report were:
- Affected others (those living or working with gambling harm-affected persons) deal with a range of harms,
- Affected partners suffer mental and physical health problems as a direct result.
- Most gambling-related harm manifests in relationship conflicts, emotional distress, and financial harm.
- There are four reasons people seek formal help: psychoeducation about gambling, to find ways to approach the gambler about the problem, to find ways to encourage them to seek help, and to figure out how to support change.
- Barriers to seeking help include a lack of information about gambling services, disconnect between services and affected others, emotional barriers, and silence around the issue.
- Study participants felt empowered.
- Evidence-based resources helped study participants.
- Gambling help programs and systems should better support affected others, tailored to family members’ needs and widely available for a multitude of situations.
- Studies targeting members of one sex should be careful of reinforcing gendered gambling stereotypes.
- A follow-up study should investigate gambling-related harm experienced by male-affected others to balance this study’s findings.
Study by the Numbers
The type of gambling that caused the most harm for the participants in the study group was electronic gaming machines (EGMs) or those machines plus another form of gambling. Some were more specific about the gambling issues, i.e. sports betting, stock market, semiprofessional poker. Most of the gamblers from the study participate in live gambling, with only five restricting themselves to online gambling.
The types of gambling harm identified by participants were:
- Financial hardship = 90%
- Legal problems = 20%
- Problems at work = 43.3%
- Problems in relationship = 96.7%
- Family dysfunction = 53.3%
- Physical violence = 16.7%
- Mental health problems = 40%
- Emotional distress = 96.7%
- Emotional violence = 26.7%
- Physical health impacts = 63.3%
- Worry about children = 43.3%
- Victim of some other crime = 16.7%
Participants also gave a number of reasons for not seeking formal gambling help:
- Preferred to manage without help = 27.3%
- Relied on family/friends or faith = 9.1%
- Unaware of how or where to get help = 45.5%
- Hadn’t made time = 4.5%
- Job interference = 0.2%
- Help not readily available = 18.2%
- No confidence in services offered = 18.2%
- Couldn’t afford help = 9.1%
- Afraid of stigma = 22.7%
- Uncomfortable discussing problems = 36.4%
- Afraid of being treated differently = 27.3%
- Not ready to seek help = 4.5%
While this study examined only a handful of targeted people who were willing to discuss their experiences, it gave insight into the harms from gambling that went well beyond the gambler.
The range of harms reported to affected others were wide-ranging, as were the difficulties in coping with those harms. Participants indicated structural barriers and perceived ones in obtaining support, but they acknowledged that a public health approach could be useful in the future.
This also showed that people, especially women, feel empowered when they access to information and coping mechanisms. And targeting services to high-risk groups would be beneficial.
Meanwhile, the videos created by the researchers were helpful. The “you’re not alone” animation will be used to communicate research findings and highlight issues going forward.