EPIC highlight military as high-risk group

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On Remembrance Day it’s important to highlight that there are certain areas of society that are at higher risks of developing a problem gambling disorder with two of those groups being serving military personnel and military veterans.

A study published last year in the Addictive Studies Journal, concluded that veterans and active military service members have significantly higher problem gambling scores compared to the general population (van der Maas, Nower, 2020). Even more worryingly was that raised problem gambling scores were also associated with increased rates of substance abuse and suicidal ideation.

A 2020 study in the Journal of Gambling Studies noted that betting and games of chance were widely accepted in Western defence cultures, with their popularity as a mechanism to potentially combat the stress and boredom that can come with some aspects of military service (Paterson et al., 2020).

In addition, military personnel have been found to be more comfortable with risk taking, and with disposable income available coupled with aspects of military service that can increase risk such as being away from home for extended periods, as well as free time experienced post operational tour, this creates the conditions for the group to be at greater risk from harm.

On top of this, there is evidence that this risk is also demographically skewed to young, male, high-risk-taking populations, who still make up the majority of the British Armed Forces.

Our own director of CSR, Paul Findlay MBE, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 when he suffered life changing injuries. During his rehabilitation he found himself with a lot of free time, in additional to a large amount of disposable income that was received as compensation for his injuries. This potentially dangerous combination was the catalyst for him developing an extremely harmful relationship with gambling as he explains:

“Returning from Afghanistan with the injuries I had sustained was extremely difficult," he explained. "There was a realisation that my career would most likely end, and that was tough to take.

“I spent the days in the hospital with my physiotherapist learning to walk with my prosthetic leg, but in the evenings, there was little to nothing to do, and there were a lot of other wounded colleagues who were gambling, and it looked like a fun way to pass the time.

“After only a short time, I found that I was betting more than others and losing a significant amount of money; it was clear I was out of control and needed help. Thankfully I came out of the other end.

“Still, it wasn't without consequence, and I am now delighted to work for EPIC ensuring other people, including those in the Armed Forces community, are aware of the risks associated with gambling harm.”