Insomnia increases gamblers' risk of suicide: study

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2014, 5:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2014, 5:00am

Insomnia and a lack of work motivation are significantly related to suicidal tendencies experienced by gambling addicts, a new study has found.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong found that of the 3,685 people who sought help at the Caritas Addicted Gamblers Counselling Centre in Tsuen Wan between 2003 and 2012, about one in five had considered attempting suicide and 22 individuals had thought of killing members of their families.

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

Among the group that had suicidal thoughts, researchers found that 57 per cent suffered from insomnia while 43 per cent said they were unmotivated at work. Four killed themselves between 2003 and 2012.

Of the remaining gambling addicts, 33 per cent suffered insomnia while 26 per cent felt unmotivated. Addicts said emotional and family problems affected their ability to sleep, while others were kept awake worrying about how they could recover gambling losses.

A lack of sleep can lead to impulsive behaviour, researchers said, greatly increasing the risk of suicide.

The researchers warned gamblers and their families to be aware of these signs and urged them to seek help. The Caritas centre welcomes not only gamblers but also their families.

The wife of a heavy gambler recounted how she almost jumped off a bridge several years ago after paying several million dollars of her husband's debt to loan sharks who then kicked her and her children out of their flat.

She received counselling at the centre and asked her husband to go, too. He refused and she has cut all contact with him.