Veterans of the UK’s armed forces are almost 11 times more likely to be problem gamblers than the general population, a new study suggests.
Research published in the journal BMJ Military Health said “gambling is a growing public health issue” and found veterans “had greater contacts with criminal justice services, received more benefits and had more lost work hours” as well as more debt than other people.
The study involved a questionnaire of 2,185 people, of whom 1,037 were veterans and 1,148 non-veterans.
Most of those in the study were men, were aged 30 to 39 and over two thirds were in work. Around 40-50% were married.
Questions looked at mental health, quality of life linked to health, use of the health service and areas such as benefits and debt.
If people said they gambled, they completed the Problem Gambling Severity Index, where a score of 0 indicates no problems while scores of 8 or more indicate problem gambling.
Overall, most veterans were found to experience problem gambling (43%), compared to 6.5% of the general population.
Meanwhile, 67% of non-veterans had gambled but without problems compared to just 38% of veterans.
Veterans generally reported higher use of healthcare services, including hospital stays, visits to GPs, and contact with social workers, than non-veterans.
And they made more use of gambling support, substance and alcohol misuse treatment services.
The researchers, including from Swansea University and Queen’s University Belfast, said there is now a good economic case for screening military veterans to pick up gambling-related harms.