International evidence indicates elevated problem gambling rates in armed forces veterans compared with the general population. Gambling problems adversely impact one’s family, and family-related variables may increase vulnerability to gambling-related harm. Little is known, however, about gambling problems in the United Kingdom (UK) veterans or to what extent family variables, such as parenting history and experience of domestic violence, influence veterans’ gambling.
We compared veterans (n = 257) and sex- and age-matched controls (n = 514) drawn from the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey on gambling, financial management, domestic violence, childhood parental presence, and experience of stressful life events. Veterans who left the military before or after 4 years of service were compared.
Problem gambling was significantly more prevalent in veterans (1.4%) than non-veterans (0.2%), and the impact of gambling problems on the family was specific to male veterans, particularly those who had experienced a traumatic event after the age of 16, and those who were more likely to have been physically attacked by their partner. Overall, this study revealed that the UK armed forces veterans report a higher prevalence rate of problem gambling compared with non-veterans, with potential negative impact on family life.
Whilst some research has explored the impact of COVID-19 on gambling behaviour, little is yet known about online search behaviours for gambling during this period. The current study explored gambling-related online searches before, during and after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. We also assessed whether search trends were related to Gambling Commission behavioural data over the same period.
Google Trends™ search data, covering thirty months from January 2020 to June 2022, for five gambling activities and five gambling operators were downloaded. Graphical displays of the weekly relative search values over this period were then produced to visualise trends in search terms, with key dates in COVID-19 policy and sporting events highlighted. Cross-correlations between seasonally adjusted monthly search data and behavioural indices were conducted.
Sharp increases in internet searches for poker, slots, and bingo were evident during the first lockdown in the UK, with operator searches sharply decreasing over this period. No changes in gambling activity searches were highlighted during subsequent lockdowns, although small increases in operator-based searches were detected. Strong positive correlations were found between search data and industry data for sports betting and poker but not for slots.
Google Trends™ data may act as an indicator of population-level gambling behaviour. Substitution of preferred gambling activities for others may have occurred during the first lockdown when opportunities for sports betting were limited. Further research is needed to assess the effectiveness of internet search data in predicting gambling-related harm.