New UK research uses big financial data to show gambling linked to harmful life experiences

March 4, 2021

Even small gambling spend linked to poor financial, social, and health outcomes.

Researchers at Oxford University published a landmark study last month, using “big financial data”.

Dr Naomi Muggleton and colleagues analysed data from 6.5 million Lloyds UK bank customers over 7 years, to determine whether gambling is associated with a range of harmful life experiences. 43% of Lloyds customers had gambled in 2018, giving the researchers a massive data set to work with.

They found that people who spent even small amounts on gambling had an increased risk of a range of poor financial, social, and health outcomes compared to non-gamblers.

Further, the risk increased as gambling spend increased.

People who gambled:

  • Were more likely to experience financial hardship – Miss a mortgage payment, miss a credit card payment, take out a payday loan, be pursued by debt collectors, use unplanned overdraft

  • Scored lower on ‘financial inclusion’ – Less likely to hold a credit card, less likely to hold a loan, have less savings

  • Were more likely to be awake in the middle of the night, which is associated with poor mental health

  • Participated in fewer social activities

  • Died earlier – The highest spenders were 1/3 more likely than non-gamblers to have died during the study, but even a small gambling spend increases the risk

  • Were more likely to experience unemployment

  • Were more likely to experience physical disability

This type of research can’t determine whether gambling causes these life outcomes. However, it does show that people who gamble are more likely to experience them; and the more people spend on gambling, the higher the risk.

The researchers also found that gambling participation is ‘sticky’ – while gambling spend can increase very quickly, it tends to decrease more slowly.

Watch this space for more updates on new gambling research from the Scottish Gambling Education Hub.

To learn more about gambling behaviour or gambling-related harms, check out ‘Gambling: An Overview’ in the Gambling Education Toolkit