The Ministry of Health engaged Central Queensland University’s (CQU) Experimental Gambling Research Laboratory and Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) Gambling and Addictions Research Centre to develop a framework and a methodology for understanding and measuring gambling-related harm in the New Zealand population.
The aim of the project was to systematically investigate gambling-related harm in New Zealand, and assess the aggregate ‘Burden of Harm’ caused by gambling with reference to different levels of problem gambling, and other comparable conditions. This improved understanding of the quality and quantity of harm will help to better target efforts to prevent or reduce the potential negative consequences of problematic gambling.
The study estimates that the total burden of harms occurring to gamblers is greater than common health conditions (such as diabetes and arthritis) and approaches the level of anxiety and depressive disorders.
Both qualitative and quantitative results suggest that this burden of harm is primarily due to damage to relationships, emotional/psychological distress, disruptions to work/study and financial impacts.
The most critical result from the research is regarding absolute scale of harms from gambling to the New Zealand population. There was an estimated 161,928 years of life lost to disability as a result of harms from gambling in 2012. Within this number 67,928 years were attributed to gamblers themselves and 94,729 to people who were effected by someone else’s gambling. This represents a substantial level of harm compared to other issues. In addition this calculation does not include harms experienced beyond a 12 month period, meaning that it is likely to be conservative.
Although some of this ‘burden of harm’ was concentrated in problem gamblers, the results suggested that at a population level the majority of harm is accruing to those who are not necessarily problem gamblers.