There has been a dramatic increase in the number of people in the UK seeking hospital treatment for gambling addiction, according to new figures released at the weekend.
NHS England has published data that shows 321 people are hospitalised for serious mental health problems associated with gambling addiction. That figure is more than double the 2013 total of 150.
The figures also show that examples of pathological gambling, which is classified as an addiction that leads people to commit crime to pay for their gambling, have also gone up, in this case by a third, over the last six years. 171 cases of pathological gambling addiction were recorded in the last year.
The NHS describes problem gambling as a habit that involves an intense desire to gamble which affects an individual’s daily life. And according to the NHS, those who have received hospital treatment are only a small fraction out of the 400,000 in England alone that are considered to have a gambling addiction. It is also believed that as many as two million individuals could be at risk from problem gambling.
Speaking about the figures, the National Mental Health director at NHS England, Claire Murdoch, said that the NHS was working hard to tackle the problem, but that gambling operators should do more:
“Our NHS is fighting back against a rising tide of gambling related ill health as more people than ever before are being egged-on by shameless gambling firms not just to take a chance with their money, but with their health too.”
The NHS has already announced that it will be launching 14 gambling addiction clinics by the end of 2023/24, including the first clinic focused on young gambling addicts. According to their figures, the youngest individual treated for gambling addiction in 2019 was just 15, and many stakeholders have raised concerns about loot boxes in video games and the extent of online gambling advertising.