The World Cup is now under way and, up and down the country, people will be settling down in front of the television to cheer on their team.
However, the charity GambleAware has warned that an increased risk of problem gambling threatens to ruin the fun, especially given the cost-of-living crisis and the seductive dream of a big win.
The timing of the matches makes matters worse, not just because of the looming expense of Christmas, but because people are at home more often in winter, with easy access to online gambling apps.
New research has shown that 43 per cent of football fans plan to place a bet during the World Cup and, among those, more than a third say that financial pressures may drive them to gamble more than they intended.
The charity GambleAware has warned an increased risk of problem gambling threatens to ruin the fun of the World Cup, which is now officially under way
In total, a third of all fans admit to feeling anxious about how much they might lose.
What’s particularly worrying is that many of these will be novices, with a quarter of people who don’t usually bet on football planning on doing so during the tournament in Qatar.
And it’s not just men at risk. About a third of all bets on sports events are placed by women.
Though historically they’ve not tended to gamble on international football — one in ten bets at the last World Cup were made by women — it’s thought many more will use apps this year, because of the interest in the games generated by the Lionesses.
In fact, research data suggests that women with online accounts for casino-type games tend to bet more often, for longer, and spend more than men.
In response to these worrying statistics, GambleAware has launched a new campaign to help stop people spiralling into problem gambling.
New research has shown that 43 per cent of football fans plan to place a bet. Dr Max Pemberton (pictured) is concerned about this and has detailed some guidance
It’s a topic I feel very strongly about, because I see many desperate gambling addicts in my clinic and I know how easily a few bets can escalate, especially if someone is down or stressed.
The damage it does is truly devastating: I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen someone come into A&E feeling suicidal after running up enormous debts.
And, yet, this kind of addiction, as opposed to a problem with alcohol or drugs, is often misunderstood. Frankly, it’s not taken seriously by the medical establishment. At medical school, I wasn’t taught a single thing about how to look after gambling addicts.
I’m no killjoy. It’s fine to have an occasional flutter, but when it starts to spiral, the fallout can destroy relationships, friendships and families.
The three key warning signs to look for in someone who may be struggling with gambling include losing track of time, spending more than they can afford and keeping it a secret from others.
This addiction can affect absolutely anyone, which is why it’s so important to talk about it, since it might not appear that a friend or loved one has a problem.
If you are worried about someone, it can often be difficult knowing how to broach the subject. But one conversation can break the stigma and reassure the person affected that they are not alone. Here’s my advice on how to bring it up.
- It’s easier to have the conversation during the day, when neither of you has had any alcohol. Avoid times when you’re both harassed or stressed because you’re less likely to have a meaningful, constructive talk.
- Timing can be everything — make sure you’ve both got the time actually to have a proper conversation and there aren’t any distractions.
- Sometimes people find it easier to broach difficult subjects when sitting side by side in the car, as this avoids too much eye contact which can sometimes be perceived as threatening.
- Don’t bring it up in the middle of an argument or as part of a list of complaints.
- Be prepared that they might react with annoyance or dismiss your concerns at first — but don’t give up. If you’re stuck and don’t know where to turn, there are a lot of online resources for advice and help.
Whether you are worried about your own gambling or someone else’s, you can get help and support from the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Alternatively, go to begamble aware.org for more advice.
Robbie, treat your snoring… for Ayda
Ayda Field Williams has discussed her ‘completely dead’ sex life with her husband, Robbie Williams (both pictured)
In a candid confession on her podcast, Ayda Field Williams has discussed her ‘completely dead’ sex life with her husband, Robbie Williams. Once, the bedroom was a place for ‘physical need’, she said, but four children have ‘obliterated’ any chance at love-making. I’m sure a lot of couples will sympathise.
But there was something else that caught my attention: the impact of Robbie’s erratic sleeping patterns and snoring on the couple. Ayda explained that sometimes not even an earthquake would rouse him, but at others he can’t sleep and will keep her up, too.
The impact of snoring on a partner shouldn’t be underestimated. The disruption it causes to their sleep can push people over the edge. There are remedies available and it’s worth being checked for medical conditions, such as sleep apnoea.
Not only does it improve the snorer’s life, but it improves beyond measure the life of the person they share their bed with.
In an important study from Oxford University, vapes have been shown to be twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy in helping people quit smoking. I’m a strong advocate for switching smokers to vapes. While vapes are not risk-free, they are far better than traditional cigarettes.
- The NHS has been told to stop funding a number of procedures, such as tummy tucks, in a bid to save billions of pounds. I wholly support the need to offer reasonable, evidence-based procedures. But looking through the list, it includes operations such as circumcision, which can be very important for men with a tightened foreskin; and varicose vein surgery, which can stop ulcers forming. I wonder how long before cataracts are included, too? I’d rather see the swollen, sclerotic strata of middlemanagers in the NHS be axed. If I had my way, I’d fire 80 per cent of them and offer them clinical posts instead. This would get rid of waste and go a long way to solving the recruitment crisis at the same time. If they don’t have clinical experience, then they can work as auxiliaries.
DR MAX PRESCRIBES… UPLIFTING POETRY
This new book from bestselling mental health campaigner Rachel Kelly brings together writing and poems to help you get in touch with your emotions
Described as ‘poems for life’s ups and downs’, this new book from bestselling mental health campaigner Rachel Kelly brings together writing and poems to help you get in touch with your emotions and explore your feelings. A perfect present for Christmas. (Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99).