This study investigated stigma associated with problem gambling in Victoria.
Through surveys and interviews with Victorian adults, including people with gambling problems and counsellors, the researchers looked at the nature and relative intensity of stigma related to gambling and how different groups perceive and experience it.
They also considered how stigma affects people's decisions about seeking help for gambling problems, and how it influences recovery from problem gambling.
The study was led by Professor Nerilee Hing and funded through round five of the foundation's Grants for Gambling Research Program.
Nerilee Hing on the stigma of problem gambling
- The general public tends to view problem gambling as a recoverable condition caused by an individual's personality or circumstances. A vast majority believe it to be an addiction, and a third believe it to be a mental health condition. They attach less stigma to problem gambling than to alcoholism and schizophrenia.
- Victorians are more likely to pity a person with a gambling problem than to feel anger or fear. However, many are reluctant to form personal relationships with people with gambling problems. Discrimination in employment is also evident.
- Most people with gambling problems feel that others see their condition as their own fault due to failures of character such as lack of self-control and dishonesty. They believe their condition to be more publicly stigmatised than alcoholism, obesity, schizophrenia and depression, but not more than drug addiction.
- People with gambling problems also experience significant shame, or self-stigma, feeling disappointed in themselves, embarrassed and weak. Secrecy is the main coping mechanism, and self-help the most common form of help used. Relapse worsens self-stigma and shame.
How this research might be useful
This study highlights a number of misconceptions held by the community about problem gambling. For example, many people believe it is a recoverable condition, while the majority of people with gambling problems experience relapse. With misconceptions feeding stigma, community education challenging them could be beneficial.
Most people with gambling problems feel that others see their condition as their own fault due to failures of character such as lack of self-control and dishonesty.
Fear of being devalued and discriminated against is a strong deterrent to seeking help for problem gambling. Given this, the foundation could play a role in reducing perceived and self-stigma among people with gambling problems. This includes ensuring responsible gambling messages don't depict people with gambling problems in a negative light.