A new study suggests heavy gamblers are at greater risk of becoming unemployed, having financial problems and even dying.
Researchers at the University of Oxford said high levels of betting are associated with a 37% increase in mortality and found there is a slippery slope from casual punts to problem gambling.
Their paper, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, used data from banks and found that individuals with jobs in the highest percentiles of gambling had a 6% likelihood of experiencing future unemployment.
On the risk of death, it said: “High levels of gambling are associated with a likelihood of mortality that is about one-third higher, for both men and women, younger and older.”
In the paper, using a smaller sample of 100,000 people in 2018, the study found 43% made a gambling transaction in that year, such as payments to a bookmaker, casino or lottery operator.
The study found mean average spending of £1,345 in the year on gambling, compared with a median figure of £125, which suggests the sums towards the top end of the scale are significantly higher.
Data from banks suggests high levels of gambling are linked to a higher rate of using an unplanned overdraft, missing credit card payments or taking out a payday loan.
Researchers also looked at how gambling can become a “sticky behaviour”, using bank data from 101,151 customers between 2012 and 2018.
The study said: “We find that, for example, three years earlier, around half of the highest-spending gamblers were already gambling heavily, while only six months before, over 6.9% of these heavy gamblers were not gambling at all, highlighting the fast acceleration with which some individuals can transition into heavy gambling.”
It also found a negative association between gambling and self-care, including spending on education, hobbies and fitness, and that those spending more with bookmakers travelled less and were more likely to spend at night.
Dr Naomi Muggleton, of Oxford University’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention, said: “It’s unclear whether gambling causes negative outcomes, or whether already vulnerable people are disproportionately targeted by bookmakers, for example through advertising and locating betting shops in impoverished neighbourhoods.
“Either of these relationships is worrying and could have implications for public health policies.”
Cash betting was not taken into account as the study only looked at bank transactions, with researchers saying “the estimated effects of gambling expenditure on gambling-related harm are probably conservative”.