Excessive time and money spent on gambling can result in harms, not only to people experiencing a gambling problem but also to their close family and friends (“concerned significant others”; CSOs). The current study aimed to explore whether, and to what extent, CSOs experience decrements to their wellbeing due to another person’s gambling.
We analysed data from The Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey (HILDA; N = 19,064) and the Canadian Quinte Longitudinal Study (QLS; N = 3,904). Participants either self-identified as CSOs (QLS) or were identified by living in a household with a person classified in the problem gambling category by the PGSI (HILDA). Subjective well-being was measured using the Personal Wellbeing Index and single-item questions on happiness and satisfaction with life.
CSOs reported lower subjective wellbeing than non-CSOs across both countries and on all three wellbeing measures. CSO status remained a significant predictor of lower wellbeing after controlling for demographic and socio-economic factors, and own-gambling problems. There were no significant differences across various relationships to the gambler, by gender, or between household and non-household CSOs.
Discussion and Conclusions
Gambling-related harms experienced by CSOs was reliably associated with a decrease in wellbeing. This decrement to CSO’s wellbeing was not as strong as that experienced by the person with the first-order gambling problem. Nevertheless, wellbeing decrements to CSOs are not limited to those living with a person with gambling problems in the household and thus affect many people.
Gambling-related harm to concerned significant others (CSOs) is an important public health issue since it reduces CSOs' health and wellbeing in numerous life domains. This study aimed to 1) estimate the first national prevalence of CSOs harmed by gambling in Australia; 2) identify the characteristics of CSOs most at risk of harm from another person's gambling; 3) compare the types and number of harms experienced by CSOs based on their relationship to the person who gambles; and 4) compare the number of harms experienced by CSOs by self-identified gender.
Based on a national CATI survey weighted to population norms, 11,560 respondents reported whether they had been personally and negatively affected by another person's gambling in the past 12 months; and if so, answered detailed questions about the harms experienced from the person's gambling who had harmed them the most.
Past-year prevalence of gambling-related harm to adult Australian CSOs was (6.0%; 95% CI 5.6%–6.5%). CSOs most commonly reported emotional harms, followed by relationship, financial, health and vocational harms, respectively. Former partners reported the most harm, followed by current partners, other family members and non-family members, respectively. Female CSOs were more likely to report more harm and being harmed by a partner or other family member, and male CSOs from a non-family member.
Discussion and conclusions
The findings provide new insights into the wider societal burden of gambling and inform measures aimed at reducing harm to CSOs from gambling and supporting them to seek help.