Study claims that gambling habits develop by age 20

Young people in the UK will have developed regular gambling habits by the age of 20 according to a University of Bristol study.

The study is part of the ‘Bristol Children of the 90s study’ and was commissioned by GambleAware in order to gain insights into how gambling behaviour and habits develop over time from an early age.

Researchers used data from 3,500 people across three age groups as well as data from surveys and interviews with parents, which were carried out before engaging with their children on the topic of gambling.

What did the study find?

Measuring young peoples’ gambling habits at ages 17, 20 and 24, the study revealed that 54% of 17-year-olds claimed to have gambled in the past year. This number rose to 68% with 20-year-olds but declined to 66% among the 24-year-old age group.

With gambling activity, researchers found that buying scratchcards, playing the lottery and place private bets with friends were the most common forms of gambling. These gambling activities are legal for people within the age range.

Marc Etches, CEO of GambleAware, said: “GambleAware is focused on keeping people safe from gambling harms. In particular, we are concerned to protect children and young people who are growing up in a world where technology makes gambling, and gambling-like activity, much more accessible.

“One in eight 11-16 year olds are reported as following gambling businesses on social media, for example. Our annual conference will showcase the ‘Bristol Children of the 90s’ study alongside other important contributions to discussions that will examine the theme of gambling and young people from a public health perspective.”

Gambling habits among young men and women

For young men, online betting activity saw a significant increase with each age group. Among the 17-year-old age group, only 9% claimed to place bets online, while 35% of 20-year-olds said they bet online. This percentage raised to 47% amongst the study’s 24-year-old age group.

Online betting activity among young women also increase over time but at a much lower rate. Just 0.8% of women in the 17-year-old group placed bets online. This number rose to 4% among 20-year-olds and then 11% with 24-year-old women.

Findings from the study showed that regular weekly gamblers were more likely to be male and had developed habits and patterns of play by age 20.  Factors such as parents’ gambling habits and social media use were also found to influence a young person’s gambling activity.

Alan Emond, Emeritus Professor of Child Health at the Centre for Academic Child Health at Bristol Medical School said: “The unique features of the ‘Children of the 90s’ gambling study are that the parent’s gambling was measured before the young people’s gambling, and the young people were asked about their gambling activity three times in the transition period from adolescence into young adulthood.

“Although many young people gambled without any harm, a small minority (6-7%) of males showed problem gambling behaviours associated with poor mental health and wellbeing, involvement in crime, and potentially harmful Keeping people safe from gambling harms use of drugs and alcohol. To protect these vulnerable young people from gambling harm requires a combination of education, legislation and appropriate treatment services.”


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