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90% of gambling addicts treated by HSE are young men

The HSE has provided figures on the age and geographic breakdown of some of those who enter treatment for gambling addiction.

Image: Shutterstock/Rob Gruner

OVER NINE IN every 10 people reported by the HSE as being treated for a gambling addiction in the past four years were men, new statistics have shown. 

Furthermore, it is predominantly young men who present for gambling addiction with the median age of those seeking treatment in recent years at 35 years old.

Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly told TheJournal.ie that the available evidence to date shows that the problem of gambling within society is now “more complex and far more widespread than ever” and a variety of responses are needed to deal with this crisis. 

‘Not representative’

Last week, TheJournal.ie revealed figures from the HSE which showed the numbers of people who presented with gambling as the main problem, as reported to the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS).

However, as reporting to the NDTRS is optional, the HSE pointed out that its figures in this regard don’t paint an accurate picture of the scale of gambling addiction in Ireland.

It said: “Therefore, these figures cannot be considered complete or representative of the treatment for gambling in a national context.”

In any case, the figures show that the number of cases were people presented with problem gambling were 208 in 2015, 195 in 2016 and 219 in 2017.

With the figures to date for 2018 only covering 60% of cases, the HSE that it had observed 174 cases. 

This means that there were at least just under 800 cases where the HSE treated a patient for a gambling addiction in the past four years.

Demographics

Breaking down the numbers, the overwhelming majority of people who present for treatment for a gambling addiction are male, and under 50.

According to figures from the HSE for 2015 to 2017, over 80% of cases treated for gambling were aged between 20 and 49.

The median age for those entering treatment was 35 years of age. 

Furthermore, over 90% of cases treated for gambling were male. 

In terms of where in the country the problem is most prevalent, the HSE indicated which community healthcare organisations (CHO) area had the most.

There are nine such areas across Ireland.

The highest number of cases in 2015 and 2017 came from individuals who reside in CHO 4 which covers Cork and Kerry.

In 2015, 25% of cases came from either Cork and Kerry. In 2017, this figures was 24%. 

In 2016, the highest number of cases (25%) came from CHO 5 – which covers south Tipperary, Carlow/Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford.

In terms of where these people received their treatment, the highest proportion was in this CHO 5 in both 2015 and 2016. 

In 2017, it was in Dublin south, Kildare and west Wicklow community healthcare programmes that most people received treatment. 

O’Reilly added that health services need to step up in terms of how they spread the right messages on problem gambling.

She said: “All the available evidence points to the fact that it is predominantly young men who are suffering from problem gambling and our health services have to be able to educate about this problem and reach out to these young men in a targeted way.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are teenagers and men in their 20s who are currently developing problem gambling habits that undiagnosed and untreated will escalate to the point where it destroys their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
We have to be totally proactive here – while problem gambling is not necessarily a new problem it is now more complex and far more widespread than ever before, and we need to ensure the health service, society, and politicians are responding accordingly.

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Sean Murray

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