Gambling Addiction More Prevalent Amongst Australian Veterans


    New research has found that Australian veterans are significantly more likely to develop problem gambling habits, which may lead to self-harm, than non-veterans. Nicole Sadler, Olivia Metcalf, and Sean Cowlishaw, the researchers behind this study, have unveiled a troubling connection between veterans’ post-military engagement in gambling and an elevated risk of suicide.

    The study’s primary focus was to delve into the intricate relationship between problem gambling and suicide within the veteran community in Australia. The findings underscore that veterans displaying signs of problem gambling post-service are at significantly higher risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts and attempting self-harm. The fact that real money online gambling in AU has been on the rise at an alarming rate for the past few years should also be taken into consideration. Such a survey is just a ripple effect of an increasingly worrying reality.

    Problem gambling tendencies often coincide with other disorders that have a higher prevalence among those who have served in the military, such as intimate partner violence, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, suicide, and depression. Unfortunately, while there are numerous opportunities for military personnel to engage in gambling, there are limited opportunities for them to access treatment. Consequently, many of the issues they develop during their service persist even after they have left the military.

    Suicidal Risks

    Over the past two decades, hundreds of Australian veterans have tragically taken their own lives. Those struggling with problem gambling behavior and experiencing gambling-related harm have been identified as having a higher risk of suicide. The aforementioned study brought attention to this alarming epidemic by surveying 3,511 former members of the Australian Defense Force (ADF) who had recently completed their military service and were in the process of transitioning back to civilian life.

    The research revealed that veterans battling gambling addiction were three times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts. They were also four times more likely to attempt suicide. Furthermore, the study uncovered an almost twofold increase in suicidal ideation and planning among at-risk gamblers. Shockingly, the study found that 83% of certified deaths among former ADF members were attributed to suicide. Among male ex-serving military personnel, the suicide rate was 27% higher compared to the general population, while female ex-serving military personnel faced a staggering 107% higher risk. Contributing factors included challenges adapting to civilian life as well as pre-existing mental health conditions.

    Problem Gambling Risks 

    Furthermore, the research has also uncovered a troubling link between military veterans and gambling issues, emphasizing the urgent need for nationwide gambling addiction treatment programs to be made available.  A staggering 13% of veterans admitted to struggling with controlling their gambling habits since transitioning to civilian life. Many experts attribute this to underlying issues such as exposure to trauma, depression, and symptoms of PTSD that they experienced during their service.

    Moreover, it was found that most military veterans seeking help did not disclose their problem gambling habits, leaving their issue untreated. Co-author of the study, Dr. Olivia Metcalf, emphasized that this omission can swiftly become a matter of life and death for veterans due to the devastating financial consequences of untreated problem gambling. The data also revealed a strong correlation between problem gambling and suicidal tendencies among ADF veterans, with the authors noting that they were more likely to experience suicidal ideation and planning compared to the average individual. 

    Moving Forward

    The rapid expansion of the gambling industry in Australia, combined with the undeniable convenience and accessibility offered by online services, increases the likelihood of individuals being exposed to potential harm, especially if they already have vulnerable mental states. Although not a new issue, problem gambling among Australian military veterans has been concealed due to societal shame associated with the struggle. However, this study aims to illuminate the challenges faced by the Australian Defense Force in the hope of saving lives, as the situation has grown increasingly dire.

    There is still a significant amount of work to be done to fully understand the effects of gambling on military veterans in Australia and the associated risks. Additionally, a shift is taking place in the country, notably with the launch of the government’s national self-exclusion register, BetStop. The country has also recently banned the use of credit cards for wagering, as an effort to prevent gamblers from spending money they can’t afford to lose. While there is no single solution to address the ongoing issues, expanding the network of services available to help vulnerable individuals is a step in the right direction.

    Author’s Bio: 

    Chief Editor Chloe Wilson is responsible for content quality assurance. Mentoring a team of over 20 writers, she makes sure that each and every task that’s submitted adheres to the site’s strict guidelines before being sent off for live publishing. Chloe’s hobbies include wine tasting, book buying (and reading!), and when time and money permits, travelling.