New Forces in Mind Trust Report:

UK Armed Forces veterans may be more at risk of developing problem gambling

In a report released on 21 June by Swansea University, and funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), preliminary findings suggest UK veterans may be at an increased risk of developing gambling problems than non-veterans, and that this vulnerability may be related to prior experience of traumatic events.

The report, entitled ‘Gambling in Armed Forces Veterans: Results from the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey of England’, was conducted by Professor Simon Dymond and Elystan Roberts of the Department of Psychology at Swansea University, and colleagues from Bangor University, Anglia Ruskin University and Veterans NHS Wales. It represents the first-ever exploration of the nature and extent of problem gambling in UK veterans, and was launched at the Excessive Gambling Wales 2017 conference in Cardiff today.

Findings consistent with international evidence include those showing elevated rates of problem gambling in armed forces veterans compared to civilian populations. Key findings include:

• UK Armed Forces veterans are more than eight times as likely to exhibit problem gambling (1.41%) than non-veterans (0.17%);

• Male veterans are more likely than male non-veterans to have experienced a traumatic event (a potential contributor to problem gambling being more prevalent amongst ex-Service personnel); and

• UK veterans have a tendency towards risk-taking, which may explain a greater susceptibility to developing gambling problems.

Some findings, however, diverged from wider research; for example, results from this study did not show that veteran status and problem gambling could be explained by differences in mental health conditions, substance abuse, or financial mismanagement.

The research was based on an analysis of data from the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey; a survey series which is used to provide data on psychiatric disorders in the community-dwelling adult population in England (ie the survey does not cover those homeless at the time, in care homes, or in psychiatric institutions). From the assessed survey data of 5,358 participants, 257 were military veterans. The research, which is currently undergoing peer review, acknowledges that further research is now required using a larger sample of veterans, with specific questions on pre-service mental health, details of participants armed forces careers, and a focus on problem gambling.

Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “The findings of this report indicate that, at least within the limitations of this data set, some significant difference has been shown in the level of problem gambling in UK Armed Forces veterans when compared to the general population. The findings and recommendations of this report are instrumental in informing the need for future research into this important issue. It is clear that a wider evidence base is needed to enable policy makers and service deliverers to better identify suitable and timely treatment interventions that ultimately will aid any ex-Service personnel suffering from gambling-related problems in their transition to civilian life.”

Professor Simon Dymond said: “This report marks an important first step in researching gambling related problems in the UK Armed Forces. Previous international research from the USA and Australia has shown higher rates of problem gambling among Armed Forces populations, but this is the first time this phenomenon has been identified in a UK sample. Given the growing public health challenges posed by problem gambling, this is a crucial finding. We hope that future research will use this report to start a conversation about the need to assess and understand problem gambling in the UK Armed Forces in greater detail.”