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The association between gambling and financial, social and health outcomes in big financial data

Abstract

Gambling is an ordinary pastime for some people, but is associated with addiction and harmful outcomes for others. Evidence of these harms is limited to small-sample, cross-sectional self-reports, such as prevalence surveys. We examine the association between gambling as a proportion of monthly income and 31 financial, social and health outcomes using anonymous data provided by a UK retail bank, aggregated for up to 6.5 million individuals over up to 7 years. Gambling is associated with higher financial distress and lower financial inclusion and planning, and with negative lifestyle, health, well-being and leisure outcomes. Gambling is associated with higher rates of future unemployment and physical disability and, at the highest levels, with substantially increased mortality. Gambling is persistent over time, growing over the sample period, and has higher negative associations among the heaviest gamblers. Our findings inform the debate over the relationship between gambling and life experiences across the population.

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Fig. 1: Gambling and financial, lifestyle and well-being outcomes.
Fig. 2: Gambling and mortality.
Fig. 3: Persistence of gambling.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from LBG but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study, and so are not publicly available. Data are available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of LBG.

Code availability

Data were extracted from LBG databases using Teradata SQL Assistant (v.15.10.1.9). Data analysis was conducted using R (v.3.4.4). The SQL code that supports the analysis is commercially sensitive and is therefore not publicly available. The code is available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of LBG. The R code that supports this analysis can be found at github.com/nmuggleton/gambling_related_harm. Commercially sensitive code has been redacted. This should not affect the interpretability of the code.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Trendl and H. Wardle for comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. We thank R. Burton, Z. Clarke, C. Henn, J. Marsden, M. Regan, C. Sharpe and M. Smolar from Public Health England and L. Balla, L. Cole, K. King, P. Rangeley, H. Rhodes, C. Rogers and D. Taylor from the Gambling Commission for providing feedback on a presentation of this work. We thank A. Akerkar, D. Collins, T. Davies, D. Eales, E. Fitzhugh, P. Jefferson, T. Bo Kim, M. King, A. Lazarou, M. Lien and G. Sanders for their assistance. We thank the Customer Vulnerability team, with whom we worked as part of their ongoing strategy to help vulnerable customers. We acknowledge funding from LBG, who also provided us with the data but had no other role in study design, analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of LBG, its affiliates or its employees. We also acknowledge funding from Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grants nos. ES/P008976/1 and ES/N018192/1. The ESRC had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

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Authors

Contributions

P.P. and P.N. proposed the initial concept. All authors contributed to the design of the analysis and the interpretation of the results. J.G. and N.S. wrote the initial draft; all authors contributed to the revision. N.M. and P.P. constructed variables and N.M. prepared all figures and tables. D.L. established collaboration with LBG. D.L., J.G. and N.S. secured funding for the research. P.N. conducted a review of the existing literature.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Naomi Muggleton.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

N.M. was previously, and D.L. is currently, an employee of LBG. P.P. was previously a contractor at LBG. They do not, however, have any direct or indirect interest in revenues accrued from the gambling industry. P.N. was a special advisor to the House of Lords Select Committee Enquiry on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry. In the last 3 years, P.N. has contributed to research projects funded by GambleAware, Gambling Research Australia, NSW Responsible Gambling Fund and the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. In 2019, P.N. received travel and accommodation funding from the Spanish Federation of Rehabilitated Gamblers and in 2020 received an open access fee grant from Gambling Research Exchange Ontario. All other authors have no competing interests.

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Muggleton, N., Parpart, P., Newall, P. et al. The association between gambling and financial, social and health outcomes in big financial data. Nat Hum Behav 5, 319–326 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-01045-w

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