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Health of Scotland’s population - Gambling Behaviour

Gambling Behaviour


Gambling behaviour is increasingly a subject of public health and policy interest.  There is widespread recognition that some people who engage in gambling activity can experience harm.

In the 2016 Scottish Health Survey, 66% of adults had spent money on gambling activity in the 12 months prior to interview.  This is a decrease compared to 2015 (68%) and 2012 (70%).

Problem gambling is defined as ‘gambling to a degree which compromises, disrupts or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits.’

Two different screening instruments, which capture different types of people, are used together in SHeS to identify and better reflect the broader range of issues associated with problematic gambling.

The first of these is based on the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and the second, the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), was developed in Canada specifically for use in population based studies.

Problem gambling prevalence: 2012-2015

In 2016, 0.4% of adults were identified as problem gamblers according to both the DSM-IV and the PGSI.  There has been little change in this figure, which has fluctuated between 0.2% and 0.5%, since 2012.

It should be noted that SHeS provides estimates for adults living in private households, and not those in institutions (e.g. prisons, student halls of residence, or homeless populations).  Non-response rates for the questions around gambling have been between 10 and 11% since 2012.

Further Information

Gambling Commission:

Responsible Gambling Trust:

SHeS 2016 gambling supplmentary tables:

ScotPHO gambling pages: