Inform gambling policies with psychological knowledge, report recommends

More informed public health policy decisions and effective prevention and treatment programs to address problem gambling could be achieved with the application of findings from psychological research, according to a special report on the psychology of gambling published in the bulletin of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) last week.

With an estimated 170,000 Australians experiencing significant problems from their gambling and a further 350,000 with moderate risks that make them vulnerable to problem gambling, an informed understanding of gambling behaviour is vital. For every person with a gambling problem, it is estimated five to ten other people are affected, including family members and work colleagues. The APS Psychology of Gambling special report provides a comprehensive review of the current literature on gambling from a psychological perspective, and concludes with a number of recommendations to inform public health decisions and enhance the effectiveness of prevention and treatment programs for this serious social and community concern.

Recommendations contained in the special report include to:

  • Increase awareness of known risk factors and groups at risk of problem gambling to inform policy responses to the differential impact of problem gambling on different parts of the Australian community
  • Develop targeted prevention programs for adolescents given the high prevalence of problem gambling in this vulnerable age group
  • Introduce measures to reduce the harm associated with electronic gaming machines given that these are implicated in 85 per cent of gambling problems in Australia
  • Investigate the psychological and social impact of new aspects of gambling such as internet gambling
  • Evaluate the psychological and behavioural impact of the burgeoning gambling advertising in the electronic media and at sporting fixtures 
  • Improve the implementation of  effective public health prevention initiatives for problem gambling
  • Train primary health care providers to identify people affected by problem gambling, given the associated stigma and frequent under-reporting of problems
  • Screen  people with problem gambling for other mental health disorders as there is a high rate of co-morbidity with depression, anxiety, alcohol/substance use disorders and personality disorders
  • Develop treatment guidelines for evidence-based psychological interventions for problem gambling
  • Undertake more extensive treatment studies for problem gambling with improved methodology
  • Develop an internationally accepted measure of problem gambling.

The Psychology of Gambling special report is based on a larger review paper prepared by the APS Gambling Working Group, which was comprised of psychological experts in academic and treatment roles. The special report provides information on the accessibility and prevalence of gambling in Australia, an account of current psychological theories and research on problem gambling behaviour, a discussion of community and public health approaches to reducing gambling harm, and an overview of the assessment and treatment of problem gambling.

The APS seeks to facilitate the provision of psychological knowledge to address problem gambling through informed public  health policy decisions, more effective prevention programs, enhanced provision of effective treatment interventions, and furthering the understanding of gambling behaviour through research. The special report and the full review paper on the psychology of gambling can be accessed at:

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The APS is the largest professional association for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 19,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to people’s lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.