Gambling problems among patients in primary care: a cross-sectional study of general practices

Abstract

Background
Primary care is an important context for addressing health-related behaviours, and may provide a setting for identification of gambling problems.

Aim
To indicate the extent of gambling problems among patients attending general practices, and explore settings or patient groups that experience heightened vulnerability.

Design and setting
Cross-sectional study of patients attending 11 general practices in Bristol, South West England.

Method
Adult patients (n=1058) were recruited from waiting rooms of practices that were sampled on the basis of population characteristics. Patients completed anonymous questionnaires comprising measures of mental health problems (for example, depression) and addictive behaviours (for example, risky alcohol use). The Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) measured gambling problems, along with a single-item measure of gambling
problems among family members. Estimates of extent and variability according to practice and patient characteristics were produced.

Results
There were 0.9% of all patients exhibiting problem gambling (PGSI ≥5), and 4.3% reporting problems that were low to moderate in severity (PGSI 1–4). Around 7% of patients reported gambling problems among family
members. Further analyses indicated that rates of any gambling problems (PGSI ≥1) were higher among males and young adults, and more tentatively, within a student healthcare setting. They were also elevated among
patients exhibiting drug use, risky alcohol use, and depression.

Conclusion
There is need for improved understanding of the burden of, and responses to, patients with gambling problems in general practices, and new strategies to increase identification to facilitate improved care and early intervention.

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