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Participation in gambling is increasing in the UK, with surveys indicating that around 59% of British adults reported gambling activities in 2010, up 7% from three years earlier.

Primary care presents a potential context for identifying patients with a gambling problem and who would benefit from the early intervention or specialist services. Experts say it is an indication of an area that needs more attention if primary care services are to help those in need.

In a cross sectional study, funded by the School, Dr Sean Cowlishaw and a team of researchers at the University of Bristol explored gambling problems, and gambling related problems (anxiety, financial strain and relationship breakdowns), among 1000 patients attending general practices across 11 general practices in southwest England.

The study found that an improved understanding of the burden of, and responses to, gambling problems is required by general practices in order to address the health-related behaviour. The study highlighted the need for increased acknowledgement and capacity to respond to gambling problems through training and support for GPs in order to identify patients and help facilitate access to specialist services.

We wanted to measure the extent of the problem and identify who is most vulnerable so that we can start to think about how primary care services – GPs and others providing healthcare in the community – might be able to help. This could include training and support for GPs so that they can identify patients with problems and signpost them to specialist services.” - Dr Sean Cowlishaw

Sean said: “Gambling is emerging as a public health issue in the UK but it is poorly researched. There is very little independent data available and none at all on how many people presenting to GPs have a problem.

Read the University of Bristol press release.

The Times, 14 March, 2017. Gambling problems for ‘1 in 4 young men’ by Kat Lay, Health Correspondent.

The NIHR: Identification of gambling problems in primary care

Gambling problems in primary care: A cross-sectional study of general practices by S. Cowlishaw, L. Gale, A. Gregory, J. McCambridge, D. Kessler published in British Journal of General Practice, 14 March 2017.