Aims: This study investigates the proportion of concerned significant others (CSOs) of problem gamblers at population level and describes the extent and type of gambling harms for CSOs.
Methods: Cross-sectional random sample data (n = 4515) were collected in 2015. The data were weighted based on age, gender and residence. CSOs were identified using a question including seven options. Gambling harms were inquired using structured questions. Descriptive statistics and Chi-Squared and Fischer’s exact tests were used.
Results: Overall, the proportion of CSOs was 19.3%. Males had close friends with gambling problems more often than females, while females had family members with gambling problems more often than males. Of the CSOs, 59.5% had experienced one or more harms. Females experienced more harms than males. Typical harms were worry about health or well-being of close ones, emotional distress and problems in interpersonal relationships. CSOs with a problem gambler in the family, particularly a partner, child/children or mother, experienced harms more often than CSOs with a problem gambler as a close friend.
Conclusions: Female gender was associated with a larger extent of harms. The extent of harms was greatest if the problem gambler was a family member; however, a substantial amount of harms were experienced when the problem gambler was a close friend. CSOs and their position in evaluating gambling harms in general should be acknowledged. Persons beyond the nuclear family and the harms they encounter should be better acknowledged in prevention and harm minimisation. Early identification and a clear referral path to tailored support in occupational, social and healthcare settings may be considered.