Almost two in three adults who are harmed by gambling knew someone who gambled when they were a child, according to a study.
Early exposure from seeing family members gamble or gambling advertising and marketing on TV can be associated with a greater risk of gambling harm later in life, the survey of 18,000 adults by YouGov for the charity GambleAware suggests.
Almost two in three (64%) of those classified as experiencing significant harm said they knew someone who gambled regularly – once a week or more – before they turned 18.
Of the adults who do not gamble, just one in four (25%) reported knowing someone who gambled when they were young.
The study suggests 6% of people were first exposed to gambling before the age of five, and 28% between the ages of six and 11.
One in five adults (22%) reported first having gambled before they were 18 years old, including one in six (16%) who started between the ages of 12 and 17.
GambleAware said responses suggested that this introduction was seen as a “turning point” by many, or a hobby that they had inherited from their family that led to harmful gambling.
The report also found that 7% of adults identify as an “affected other” who have been negatively affected by another person’s gambling.
Meanwhile, an estimated 1.6 million children under 18 live with an adult experiencing significant harms from their gambling.
Almost half (48%) of those experiencing significant gambling harm felt “embarrassed or ashamed” of their gambling all or most of the time.
Among those experiencing significant harm, 34% had not used any form of advice, support or treatment to reduce their gambling in the past 12 months.
Zoe Osmond, chief executive of GambleAware, said: “We are concerned about the normalisation of gambling across society, with this year’s report clearly highlighting a potential link between early exposure and harms in later life, as well as a worry by parents who feel unable to shield their children from the plethora of advertising and marketing.
“It is also important to end the stigma associated with gambling, which is acting as a key barrier to those wanting advice and support. We encourage people to come forward and open up the conversation about gambling to put an end to stigma and ensure people get the help they need.”
Kate Gosschalk, research manager at YouGov, said: “This year, the research – which included a substantial online survey of 18,000 people and 30 in-depth telephone interviews – explored new areas including when people were first exposed to gambling and the effect gambling has on children.
“This survey can help us learn more about gambling harms in Great Britain and what can be done to ensure people receive the help and support they need going forward.”