First-of-its-kind research explores gambling and wellbeing issues in the RAF

  • The RAF Benevolent Fund has launched the first, and largest, study of its kind to determine the frequency and severity of gambling problems in the serving RAF community
  • The report provides a detailed insight into gambling and associated wellbeing issues in the RAF, and recommendations include increasing awareness, screening, training and education in problem gambling among RAF personnel
  • Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, Controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “We are committed to providing the serving RAF community with appropriate support and this research will help inform our emotional wellbeing services moving forwards”

A new piece of research[1], conducted by the RAF Benevolent Fund and Swansea University, has been published, exploring wellbeing issues among serving RAF personnel, with a key focus on problem gambling, alcohol use and mental health.

The survey of more than 2,000 serving members of the RAF indicated that 2% of serving personnel are affected by problem gambling. Despite affecting a minority of the serving RAF community, the survey indicates that RAF personnel are more likely to experience gambling problems compared to the general population[1,2].

The report found that a further 13.7% of personnel indicate some degree of risk in relation to gambling (9.8% low risk, 3.9% moderate risk) and, with the recent Armed Forces Veterans’ Health and Gambling Study[3] highlighting that UK veterans are significantly more likely to experience problem gambling, the question raises, what more can be done to support RAF personnel to prevent future gambling and wellbeing problems?

Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, Controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said:

We are committed to providing the serving RAF community with appropriate support and this research will help inform our emotional wellbeing services moving forwards.”

The RAF Benevolent Fund provided key recommendations in the report, including: increasing awareness among serving personnel, increasing screening particularly among those with risk factors, training for health professionals and line managers; and providing education and low-intensity behaviour change strategies for those who are at risk of developing gambling problems.

The study showed that gambling problems are interlinked with broader wellbeing issues such as alcohol use and mental health, with individuals who consume alcohol at hazardous levels being twice as likely to be involved in at-risk gambling, while those with moderate to severe depression being five times more likely to report having a gambling problem[1].

Particular risk factors for problem gambling in the RAF included being male, aged 18-24 and of non-commissioned rank.

One respondent added:

“Gambling was a release from the stress of work and normal life. I gained promotion at a young age – younger than most others in my trade – and this meant I put a lot of self-induced stress and pressure on myself. I hid my gambling issue from my colleagues and chain of command because I was ashamed and embarrassed – I didn’t want to admit what I was going through.”

Air Vice-Marshal Maria Byford, Chief of Staff Personnel and Air Secretary at the Royal Air Force, said:

“The health and wellbeing of our personnel is of utmost importance, so this research provides a valuable insight into some of the challenges faced by the serving community. Now, with a greater understanding of these issues, we will be able to better support personnel with the assistance of service charities like the RAF Benevolent Fund.”

The RAF Benevolent Fund provides a range of welfare services for the whole of the RAF Family – from serving personnel and veterans to their partners, widows and children – such as a listening and counselling service, free Headspace memberships, and gambling support through a partnership with GamCare. For more information, visit rafbf.org.

References

  1. https://www.rafbf.org/about-us/our-publications/research-reports
  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/gambling-related-harms-evidence-review/gambling-related-harms-evidence-review-summary
  3. https://s31949.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/20210906-SwanseaUni-Gambling2-Report-v8-FINAL.pdf

Notes:
The Gambling and Wellbeing Report research was conducted from (19/01/2021) to (30/04/2021). Over 2,000 members of serving RAF personnel completed the survey, and a sample of 17 self-selected individuals participated in in-depth qualitative interviews.

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