Gambling opportunities are increasingly available and acceptable to many adolescents. Adolescent problem gambling has been associated with poor outcomes, such as lower reported physical and mental health. While much research has focussed on ‘problem’ gambling, analysing the distribution and determinants of experimentation with gambling is important in order to understand its normalization and population level consequences. This study describes the distribution of inequalities and socioemotional harms associated with adolescent gambling.
Data were drawn from a subsample of students (N = 37 363) who completed gambling questions as part of the 2017 School Health Research Network Student Health and Wellbeing Survey, representing 193 secondary schools in Wales. Using imputations, we estimated a series of single-predictor and multi-predictor regressions for count of gambling behaviours, any gambling in the past 12 months and socioemotional harms of gambling.
Approximately two-fifths (41.0%) of respondents reported gambling in the past 12 months, of whom 16.2% reported feeling bad as a result of their own gambling. We found significant sex differences in gambling, with boys gambling more frequently than girls. Adolescents from more affluent families reported a higher count of gambling behaviours and socioemotional harms, although paradoxically, increasing affluence was also associated with lower prevalence of gambling in the last year. Non-White British ethnicities and students who felt less connected to school were more likely to engage in gambling and experience socioemotional harms.
Our findings provide important new insights regarding risk factors in adolescence associated with gambling behaviours and socioemotional harms.