British Armed Forces veterans nearly 11 times more likely to be problem gamblers than the general population, survey results published online in the newspaper show BMJ Military Health.
And they are costing society more in terms of increased use of health and welfare services, run-ins with the police, lost working hours, welfare benefits, and heavier debt.
There are now good economic reasons for screening military veterans for gambling-related harms, the researchers conclude.
Gambling is a growing public health problem and military veterans are at increased risk, the researchers note.
Gambling is associated with debt, job loss, relationship breakdown, poor health, criminal behavior, and interrupted education. Estimates suggest it costs England around £ 1.27 billion each year.
While around 10% of UK military veterans experience financial difficulties after leaving the forces, routine post-deployment mental health assessments do not currently include gambling.
To try to assess the social and economic costs of problem gambling among military veterans, the researchers looked at the differences in health care use and social service delivery between a sample of former British soldiers and a comparison group. civilians who had not served in the military, but who were matched for age and gender.
They drew on online survey data collected as part of the British Armed Forces Veterans Health and Gambling Study. A total of 5,147 responses were received, with 2,185 people, of which 1,037 were military veterans, included in the final analysis.
Respondents were asked a series of questions about their mental health, health-related quality of life and use of health services.
They were also asked about their ethnicity, marital status, education level, hours worked, debt levels, social benefits, housing and household size. Veterans provided additional details on the length and type of their military service.
The participants were almost all men, aged 30 to 39; and more than two-thirds were working.
If participants said they were gambling, they completed the PGSI Problem Gambling Severity Index) where a score of 0 indicates no problem while scores of 8 or higher indicate problem gambling.
Two-thirds (67%) of those who had not served in the military were not problem gamblers. But more than 4 in 10 military veterans (43%) were.
Overall, veterans were almost 11 times more likely to have a gambling problem than non-veterans, 6.5% of whom fell into this category.
The researchers compared the costs and outcomes for veterans based on their PGSI score. Resource usage for the previous 3 months has been grouped by type of service, while unit costs have been obtained from previously published sources.
Total costs were then calculated for the use of health and social care services plus societal costs, adjusting for potentially influencing factors, such as ethnicity, country of residence, qualifications and relationship status.
Veterans generally reported higher use of health services, including hospital stays, visits to general practitioners, and contact with social workers than non-veterans. And they use more gambling services, substance abuse treatment and alcohol services.
They also had more run-ins with the police, lost more working hours (33 vs. 18), received more benefits, and racked up more debt than non-veterans (£ 1,375 vs. £ 806 ).
Cost analysis found that veterans incurred significantly higher health, social and societal costs than non-veterans, at around £ 600 per person.
While veterans’ average costs were lower, if they were gamblers, their use of services increased as problem gambling severity scores increased, resulting in higher societal costs.
These differences are likely due to the impact of military service, which is known to be associated with greater physical and mental health needs, the researchers suggest.
This is an observational study, and as such, cannot establish the cause. And economic analysis has certain limitations, the researchers admit.
The data was collected at one point, and higher health costs for veterans are likely to indicate greater physical and mental health issues for this group that are unrelated to gambling.
Nonetheless, the researchers conclude: “Our results support an economic case for screening for gambling-related harm in the UK. [Armed Forces] Veterans.
“The costs of routine post-deployment and end-of-service screening are relatively low. However, although costs may increase for those identified with mental health problems, there is a clear trade-off between the costs saved through future use of health resources as well as criminality contact with the law and debts. accumulated. ”
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Social and economic costs of gambling problems and associated damage among British military veterans, BMJ Military Health, militaryhealth.bmj.com/lookup/… military-2021-001892
Quote: British military veterans nearly 11 times more likely to be problem gamblers than non-veterans (2021, October 18) retrieved October 18, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-10 -uk-military-veterans-problem- players.html
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