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Lancet commission to study gambling as “public health predicament”

| By Robert Fletcher
Medical journal The Lancet has announced the launch of its first commission on gambling, a new scientific inquiry that will focus on what it described as an “urgent, neglected, understudied and worsening public health predicament”.

The publication will work with Heather Wardle from the University of Glasgow in the UK; Louisa Degenhardt of the University of New South Wales in Australia, and Shekhar Saxena from Harvard University in the US through the commission.

It was been formed with problem gambling and addiction increasingly viewed as a health-harming addictive behaviour, the Lancet explained.

Gambling addiction, it noted, was now recognised in the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11) and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5).

The Lancet added recent studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO) have also shown that the prevalence of gambling disorders among adults varies between 0.1% and 5.8%, and such requires more research to combat problem behaviour.

“Gambling is a source of potentially serious and wide-ranging harms, affecting an individual’s health, wealth, and relationships,” The Lancet explained. “It affects whole families and communities, and can become a lifelong struggle to avoid relapse.

“There is an urgent need to assess and understand the barriers and facilitators to preventing gambling-related health harms.”

The commission will therefore push for science-led, transformational change in policy and political action, with a core aim of helping reduce the impact of disordered gambling on poverty levels in regions around the world.

“The normalisation of gambling in many countries, its widespread and easy accessibility, and governments’ addiction to revenues from gambling could be a threat to reaching the sustainable development goals,”

“The growth of commercial gambling across sub-Saharan Africa and the so-called gamblification of sports over recent years deserves closer scrutiny, not least because gambling can deepen poverty.”

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