More Australians are turning to gambling to relieve stress, an annual psychology survey has found.
The Australian Psychology Society discovered that 41 per cent of Australians are participating in the addictive behaviour to alleviate their anxiety and depression even though the top cause of stress listed in the survey was personal financial issues.
According to findings from an unrelated study released by Ray Morgan Gambling Moniter, Australians forked out $16.3 billion on gambling last year, with poker machines accounting for 60 per cent – or $9.8 billion – of the total expenditure.
‘If they often have severe levels of depression or anxiety, generally what they are doing is turning to addictive behaviours,’ Australian Psychological executive director, Professor Lyn Littlefield said.
‘Really at the time you are doing it, it blots out what you’re worried about… These behaviours don’t solve them, it’s an escape.’
Nearly 20 per cent of those who took part in the Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 2015 said they had used gambling to relieve stress, an increase of six per cent in just four years.
Prof Littlefield said electronic gaming machines, or pokies, and the normalisation of gambling are central to forming addictive behaviours.
‘They are disproportionately located in the lower socio-economic areas which is really worrisome because often vulnerable people, particularly financially vulnerable people, live in those areas.’
She said the design of pokies was central to their addictive nature.
‘Every five hits you are going to get something, you just don’t know when so you keep trying.’
According to the Ray Morgan research findings, Australians also spent $2.5 billion on race betting in 2014 and $1.7 billion on lotteries.
‘Despite losing popularity over the past decade, poker machines still generate the bulk of revenue from gambling in Australia,’ International Director of Tourism, Travel and Leisure at Roy Morgan Research Jane Ianniello said.
THE SURVEY ALSO FOUND….
‘This makes sense, as half of poker machine players qualify as heavy gamblers, compared to one in five gamblers overall.’
Those who reported extremely severe levels of anxiety, distress and depression in the survey used addictive behaviours such as drinking, smoking, taking drugs and gambling to relieve stress at much higher rates than others.
The survey found that anxiety symptoms are the highest they have been for five years and close to 60 per cent of teenagers have trouble sleeping or relaxing after accessing social media sites.
While wellbeing improved with income, education and employment, the stress management techniques for those struggling were found to be highly unhealthy.
Alcohol consumption topped the list, with 61 per cent documenting that they used it as their main stress alleviation tool.
Smoking came in just under gambling with 40 per cent of anxiety sufferers putting their hand up and drug use came in at 31 per cent.
Friends or family were said to be the most effective and healthy way to relieve stress.
Although 72 per cent of those surveyed said they felt stress impacted on their physical health, more than half said they did not seek help with it.
‘It appears that there is a vicious cycle involving people finding personal finances and health the main reasons for stress, yet certain stress-relief methods are potentially contributing to people’s problems in the long-term,’ Professor Littlefield said.
‘We need to look at the impact of stress on society as a whole, and what we can do to reduce the potential for stress related harm.’