Is gambling becoming more of a problem than smoking and drinking for Ireland’s youth?
Gambling rates increase while smoking and drinking rates decrease
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Recent research has found that Irish youth are smoking and drinking less than the Irish youth did 20 years ago. Specifically, the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) states that the lifetime prevalence of cigarette use, alcohol use, and cannabis use has decreased in Ireland from 1995 to 2015. In addition, the Health Behavior in School-aged Children in Ireland (HBSC) reports that 58% of boys and 62% of girls have never drank alcohol before, and that only 8% of boys and 7% of girls reported that they currently smoke.
Unfortunately though, along with the decrease in rates of smoking and drinking we are seeing an increase in rates of problem gambling. ESPAD reports that 16% of Irish youth have gambled at least once, and that 11% gamble frequently, with the rates for boys gambling being higher than that of girls gambling. The increase in youth problem gambling rates is most likely due to the fact that gambling is often noted as a “hidden addiction.” Unlike those who smoke and drink alcohol, it is very hard to tell if someone has a gambling problem. Because the problems of gambling are not often seen, the government has been more focused on cracking down on issues like alcohol and drug use while leaving the issue of compulsive gambling behind. This is probably why we are seeing a decrease in rates of alcohol and cigarette/drug use, and an increase in problem gambling rates.
In order to start seeing a decrease in youth gambling rates, the government is going to have to take initiative and start cracking down on the issue like they did with alcohol and drug abuse. For starters having detailed information provided by organisations like ESPAD and HBSC, helps us to better understand the issue at hand. So it would be particularly helpful to have more extensive research done on gambling and how it is affecting Irish youth. If we continue to ignore the presence of problem gambling in the youth population then we are most likely going to run into long-term issues. Hopefully in the near future more research will be done so that we can start tackling the issue as a whole.