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Research and Advances in Psychiatry

Problem gambling and physical health: an observational study

Review article, 22 - 27
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Abstract
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Introduction: Problem gambling is known to be associated with a range of mental, behavioural and social difficulties. There is emerging evidence that an association exists between problem gambling and adverse physical health problems, but this has not been assessed so far in a European setting.
This study aims at evaluating self-reported physical health complaints within a cohort of problem gamblers in the United Kingdom.
Methods: Self-reported health conditions and medication usage were recorded in 316 clients referred to the National Problem Gambling Clinic (London) between May 2008 and July 2010.
Results: 36.1% of the participants reported some physical complaint, with 71 individuals (22.5%) classified as having a chronic health complaint (CHC). The most commonly reported physical health complaint was pain (N=13) and the most commonly reported diagnosis was diabetes (N=19).
The prevalence of some conditions (e.g. diabetes, HIV) was higher than the national UK prevalence, while others (e.g. hypertension) were lower, but probably under-reported.
Conclusions: Decreased health functioning may be due more to the risk factors within the gambling environment rather than gambling itself (e.g., smoking, unhealthy diet, cheap alcohol consumption). The sustained stress of gambling may also be responsible
for the development of physical health conditions. A visit to the Problem Gambling Clinic may be the only contact with the NHS for some clients: it is therefore extremely useful to perform a global assessment in order to identify and understand possible physical conditions and to enhance their motivation to seek treatment.

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