Professor Marcantonio Spada, who will address the Current Advances in Gambling Research Conference a week on Friday in London, told the SSA ahead of his talk that problematic gambling behaviour is escalating to critical levels in the UK.
Professor Spada, of London South Bank University, will present on the role of metacognitive beliefs in predicting problem gambling, showcasing how these beliefs may be central in informing the development of new forms of psychological treatment which focus on metacognitive, rather than cognitive, change.
“I will be showcasing the importance not of cognitions, but of metacognitions (or metacognitive beliefs) – beliefs we have about our own thinking,”said Professor Spada.
“These beliefs appear to be very important in predicting addictive behaviours, over and above cognitions which are the main focus of change in traditional CBT. If metacognitive beliefs are important in predicting gambling behaviour, then they need to be targeted in treatment. Interventions focusing on modifying metacognitive beliefs have been successfully applied to the treatment of anxiety and depression, so the time has probably come to start looking at tackling these beliefs in gamblers.”
Although much has been made in the mainstream media of the changes in gambling behaviour since restrictive laws on advertising were relaxed, Professor Spada believes that there are further important factors behind the rise in the number of problem gamblers; from societal changes to the advancement of technology.
“Technology has turbo charged the potential for gambling,” he added.
“In the past, you could only gamble in specific settings, making it not that straightforward to gamble. Nowadays you can gamble in any place and at any time.”
“In addition to this, the long-term decline and weakening of communities and social support networks has made the younger generations particularly vulnerable to mental health problems and in turn to addictive behaviours which offer a readily available short-term means for managing anxiety and low mood. We have witnessed a decline in some forms of addictive behaviours, however, if we amalgamate addictive behaviours, to include substance-based and behavioural addictions, the picture is considerably worse than it was 20 or 30 years ago.”
Professor Spada also warned that due to the severity of the impact problem gambling on individuals, it could soon be classed as one of biggest and most harmful mental health issues in the UK.
He said:“I think problem gambling, on some levels, has the potential to be the worse form of addictive behaviour. Suicide rates are very high in problem gamblers, who typically have to face multiple costs, beyond financial losses, associated with their addictive behaviour. These include anxiety and depression, job instability, family disintegration and shame.”
“The Gambling Commission suggests that 450,000 children aged 11 to 16 bet regularly, which is more than those who have taken drugs, smoked or drunk alcohol. Of these 450,000 children, 50,000 are estimated to be problem gamblers. Where are these children with these gambling problems? They are very difficult to detect because the gambling occurs online. What we do know is that when they enter adulthood they will have a much greater chance, than their peers, of harming themselves because of the debts that they have accrued and the associated shame and embarrassment.”
Professor Marcantonio Spada’s keynote address: ‘The role of metacognitive beliefs in predicting problem gambling: A review’, will take place at the Current Advances in Gambling Research Conference, at the University of East London, on Friday, 12thJuly.