A new study has found that people who have gambling problems are more likely to withdraw from sports, cultural or religious groups.
The study, funded by the Department of Health and undertaken by the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), followed players from 2012 to 2015.
Gambling and Addiction Research Center associate professor Maria Bellringer – who was the lead author of the study – said the new information could help identify people who may have a problem with gambling.
“If someone is an active member of community groups and withdraws for no apparent reason, it could be an indicator that that person has gambling issues that are hidden from others,” Bellringer said.
This compounded the detrimental effects on Maori and Pasifika populations, who were already more susceptible to damage from gambling, she said.
“Maori and Pacific communities are generally more community-oriented than many Pākehā and therefore people in these populations who may be in transition to more harmful gambling behaviors have a much higher risk of exiting these community contributions.
“This is important because Maori and the people of the Pacific are disadvantaged by gambling anyway and they are much more likely to experience gambling harms than the general population, so now we could make that worse with harm at Community level. “
Besides the withdrawal from the community, the study found associations between those who became problem gamblers and poor health, Bellringer said.
“They were more likely to be continuous smokers, they were likely to continue to have a poor quality of life, so they started with a poor quality of life and it remained poor.
“They were more likely to start going through more stressful life events like losing a job, poorer health, divorce, that sort of thing. This transition to problem gambling was also associated with increased deprivation.
The flip side was that those who gave up problem gambling experienced improvements in their health, she said.
“They were also likely to stop drinking alcohol in an unsafe or excessive way, and subsequently were more likely to improve their quality of life.”
The study added to the public health knowledge basket and would be useful for gambling harm prevention and help, she said.
“New Zealand National Gambling Study: Correspondence between changes in game and game risk levels and health”, was carried out by the Gambling and Addictions Research Center and the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology of the AUT.
A full version of the report is available on the Ministry of Health website.