The public stigma of problem gambling: its nature and relative intensity compared to other health conditions

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Publication details

Hing, N, Russell, A, Gainsbury, SM, Nuske, E in press, 'The public stigma of problem gambling: its nature and relative intensity compared to other health conditions', Journal of Gambling Studies.

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Problem gambling attracts considerable public stigma, with deleterious effects on mental health and use of healthcare services amongst those affected. However, no research has examined the extent of stigma towards problem gambling within the general population. This study aimed to examine the stigma-related dimensions of problem gambling as perceived by the general public compared to other health conditions, and determine whether the publicly perceived dimensions of problem gambling predict its stigmatisation. A sample of 2000 Australian adults was surveyed, weighted to be representative of the state population by gender, age and location. Based on vignettes, the online survey measured perceived origin, peril, concealability, course and disruptiveness of problem gambling and four other health conditions, and desired social distance from each. Problem gambling was perceived as caused mainly by stressful life circumstances, and highly disruptive, recoverable and noticeable, but not particularly perilous. Respondents stigmatised problem gambling more than sub-clinical distress and recreational gambling, but less than alcohol use disorder and schizophrenia. Predictors of stronger stigma towards problem gambling were perceptions it is caused by bad character, is perilous, non-recoverable, disruptive and noticeable, but not due to stressful life circumstances, genetic/inherited problem, or chemical imbalance in the brain. This new foundational knowledge can advance understanding and reduction of problem gambling stigma through countering inaccurate perceptions that problem gambling is caused by bad character, that people with gambling problems are likely to be violent to other people, and that people cannot recover from problem gambling.

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