Losing stakes: One in five gambling addicts are suicidal, new report finds

Counselling centre research finds ‘basic issues of sleep and work’ behind problems

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 1:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 2:48pm


About 20 per cent of gambling addicts who sought help at a counselling centre had considered suicide, while 22 also thought of killing their families, a report says.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong found that of the 3,685 people who sought help at the Caritas Addicted Gamblers Counselling Centre between 2003 to 2012, about one in five had thought of attempting suicide and 22 individuals had thought of taking their family members’ lives as well.

“When we look at the reasons behind suicidal thoughts among gamblers, it is easy to overlook the basic issues of sleep and work,” said Paul Wong Wai-ching, social work and social administration assistant professor at the university.

Among the suicidal group, they found that 57 per cent said of gambling addicts suffered insomnia and 43 per cent said they were unmotivated at work. In the non-suicidal group 33 per cent suffered insomnia, while 26 per cent felt unmotivated.

The researchers also found that addicted gamblers usually face multiple problems in life, including emotional and family problems that affect their sleep. A lack of sleep may also lead to impulse behaviour, they said.

The researchers warned gamblers and their families to be aware of these signs which may be point to future bahaviour.

The report is to be published in international journal Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, next month.

Last week, suicide prevention workers said that ingrained resistance to discussing mental health problems and suicide in Hong Kong is proving to be an obstacle to bringing down the rising rate of young people killing themselves.

The city’s youth suicide rate rose by 19 per cent between 2010 and 2012. In 2010, it was 7 in every 100,000 youths, but the number rose to 8.3 in 2012.

Meanwhile, the overall suicide rate dropped 8 per cent – from 13.8 in 2010 to 12.7 in 2012, according to the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention.