Study claims gambling widespread among Welsh adolescents

10 October 2019

More than 40% of Welsh students aged 11-16 said they gambled in the last year, though activity was predominantly centred around fruit machines and the National Lottery, according to a new study from Cardiff University.

The study found that 41% of its 103,971 respondents reported gambling in the period, while 16.2% of the group who had gambled said they felt bad as a result of their gambling activity. Conducted by the from the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement at Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences, the data was drawn from the 2017 School Health Research Network Student Health and Wellbeing Survey, completed by students in years 7–11 from 193 secondary schools in Wales.

The most popular type of gambling activity playing fruit machines in pubs with 4.6% of those who responded saying they had done so. National lottery scratch cards and private bets between friends were the next most common options, each played by 2.9% of respondents, followed by the National Lottery lottery draw itself, with 2.8%.

Just 1.2% said they had gambled in betting shops, with no mention of online play.

Further analysis based on a sub-sample of 37,363 respondents found significant differences in levels of gambling related to gender and race, with boys and ethnic minority students reporting gambling more often than girls and caucasian students respectively.

The data suggested that, when missing responses were excluded, the youngest students in the sub-sample appeared to have gambled the most, with 49% of Year 7s (aged 11-12) claiming to have gambled in some form in the past year.

However, with missing responses being most frequent among the Year 7 group, non-gamblers may have made up the overwhelming majority of non-respondents to the question, meaning the youngest cohort may not have gambled as often as older students. The overall prevalence of those who had gambled was also higher in this sub-sample than in the overall age group sample.

“Given that a greater proportion of year 7’s had gambled in the last year compared to older grades, further research investigating type of gambling behaviour and age may be worthwhile,” the study noted.

In addition, the data from the sub-sample revealed that male students gambled more than female students. It found that 38% of male students and 33.3% of female students said they had gambled, which was increased to 49% and 38% when missing data was excluded.

It also suggested that minority ethnic students gambled more than caucasian students, with 37.2% of minority students and 35.4% of white British students claiming to have gambled. Again this increased, to 48% and 42% respectively, when missing data was excluded.

Those who felt they did not “belong” reported much higher rates of gambling than those who did not, and reported the highest incidence of feeling bad due to gambling.

“Given our findings that students who feel less connected to school were more likely to engage in gambling and experience socioemotional harms, school environment interventions [...] which support pupils’ commitment to their school community as a means of removing the need for young people to engage in alternative markers of identity and status through risky behaviours such as violence and substance use may offer promise for reducing gambling,” the study said.