More than 40% of children aged 11 to 16 have gambled in past year, study shows

More than 40% of young people aged 11 to 16 report having engaged in gambling in the past year, a study shows.

The analysis from Cardiff University academics, the largest of its kind in the UK, reveals fruit machines at an arcade, pub or club were the most popular form of gambling, followed by playing cards for money with friends and purchasing scratch cards. Placing a private bet among friends and buying lotto tickets were also among the top gambling activities.

Of those who said they had gambled in the past 12 months, 16% said they felt bad as a result.

Boys were more frequent gamblers than girls. Young people from minority ethnic groups, and students who felt that they did not belong in their school, were also more likely to engage in gambling and to feel bad about the experience.

In the UK, commercial gambling is legal only for those aged 18 and over with two exceptions.

Young people between 16 and 18 can legally purchase National Lottery products, including draw-based games, scratch-cards and online instant wins.

There are no age restrictions on category D games machines, which include fruit machines.

Researchers say the results show more needs to be done to raise awareness of the risks of gambling.

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While over the past 20 years or so, lots of adolescent risk behaviours like smoking and drinking alcohol have become less common, we are seeing the emergence of new risk behaviours in today’s society. Our research suggests that gambling might be emerging as a new public health issue.

Dr Graham Moore, DECIPHer

Data for the study were gathered from more than 37,000 students who completed gambling questions as part of the 2017 School Health Research Network Student Health and Wellbeing Survey, which represents 193 secondary schools in Wales.

Respondents were asked a range of questions about gambling, including if they had gambled in the past 12 months, how often they had felt bad about gambling and what sorts of gambling they had participated in.

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Problem gambling is associated with lower self-esteem, poorer school performance and an increased risk for other addictions, as well as feelings of guilt, shame and self-hatred.

Lead author Professor G.J. Melendez-Torres