While US evidence indicates that gambling problems may be significant issues in military and veteran populations, limited evidence exists elsewhere.
This project evaluated the frequency of gambling problems, and resultant mental health, wellbeing and psychosocial implications, in Australian Defence Force (ADF) military personnel. Data was collected from post-deployment surveys completed by ADF personnel within four months of returning from the Middle East Area of Operations, and included the nine-item Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI).
The project found that gambling problems, including problem gambling and at-risk gambling, are significant issues for some Australian military personnel in the post-deployment period. Key findings included:
- Post deployment, 7.7 per cent of returned ADF personnel reported any gambling problems (a PGSI score of ≥ 1), with 2 per cent classified as problem gamblers.
- Several population sub-groups were particularly vulnerable to any gambling problems, including personnel under 24 years of age (13.4 per cent of whom reported gambling problems) and personnel on shorter service (11 per cent).
- Rates of any gambling occurred frequently relative to harmful drinking .
- Problem Gambling was associated with a near nine-fold increase in the risk of alcohol dependence, and a seven-fold increase in depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. At-Risk Gambling was associated with near two-fold increase in post-traumatic stress disorder, high psychological distress and poor quality of life.
- Gambling problems were also associated with post-deployment adjustment difficulties, including not wanting to talk about experiences with family and friends, arguing more with intimate partners, and difficulties resuming normal social activities.
The findings highlight the need for increased recognition of and responses to gambling problems in military and veteran-specific contexts, particularly following deployment.
Dr Cowlishaw, S, Dr Metcalf, O, Dr Little, J, Dr Sbisa, A, Dr Deans, C, Prof. O’Donnell, M, Ms Sadler, N, Dr Van Hooff, M, Dr Lawrence-Wood, E, Ms Crozier, T, Prof. Battersby, M, Prof. McFarlane, A, and Prof. Forbes, D 2021, Gambling problems among Australian military personnel after deployment: analyses of the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) Prospective Health Study, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Melbourne.