Gambling addiction may increase the risk of long-term illness for several years, according to a new study published in Psychological Medicine. Karolinska Institutet researchers behind the study point to the need to identify gambling addicts in time to avoid financial and health problems.
Gambling addiction is a mental condition characterized by prolonged and problematic gambling that leads to negative financial, health and social consequences. 1.3 percent of the Swedish population, corresponding to 105,000 Swedes, have gambling problems or are at increased risk of gambling problems, but the number of unreported cases is believed to be much higher. The condition has been described as a “hidden addiction” that can occur without awareness of the environment.
The research team, with expertise in addiction, gambling, epidemiology, and sickness absence, used several linked national registries to study 2,830 working individuals between the ages of 19 and 62 who had been diagnosed with gambling addiction and examined their sickness absence over six years. They then compared these data with a matched group of 28,300 people without a gambling addiction diagnosis.
Thanks to extensive data in different registers, we were able to control for various factors associated with both gambling addiction and sickness absence, including physical and mental health, gender, age, length of education and how densely populated. The area in which the person lives.”
Yasmina Molero, the last author of the study, is a researcher at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institutet
Researchers found that people with gambling addiction had an 89% higher risk of being on long-term sick leave, meaning they were diagnosed with more than 90 days per year.
“This is particularly worrisome because this group often has a history of mental health problems and the ability to work is important for emotional and financial recovery,” said researcher Victor Manson of the same department.
Research shows that risk is unevenly distributed. Being female, having less education and living in a less densely populated area were associated with a higher risk of long-term sick leave.
According to the researchers, the results are important because there is a lack of knowledge about the consequences of gambling addiction over time and how they can affect the individual in terms of health and performance, and ultimately financial stability through work and participation in society.
“The research shows that we need to identify gambling problems at an early stage in health care and the workplace and increase access to help for affected people so that they can break negative trajectories earlier. The risk of gambling addiction goes unnoticed and problems can become widespread before they are targeted in health care. And before diagnosis, this study shows something like that,” says Victor Manson.
The next step in research is to develop early detection methods for gambling addiction and educate healthcare professionals about the problem, explains Yasmina Molero.
“Since gambling addiction is often a long-term problem, it will also be important to follow people for a longer period of time, for example up to ten years, to learn more about the long-term consequences of the sufferers and their environment.”
The research was mainly funded by the Region Stockholm and Ft.
Manson, V., etc (2023) Risk and development of work disability in individuals with gambling disorder: a longitudinal case-cohort study in Sweden. Psychological Medicine. doi.org/10.1017/S0033291723003288.