back to article Big data: Study suggests even a moderate gambling habit is linked to increased mortality and other bad stuff

Banking data from 6.5 million individuals over six years is providing evidence that even moderate gambling can be associated with financial distress, negative lifestyles, and an increased likelihood of death. Research published in Nature Human Behaviour showed gambling is found alongside higher rates of future unemployment and …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "the study is silent on these factors"

    Well, if the data has been properly anonymized I do not fin dit surprising that socio-economic class is not in the analysis.

    Gambling is certainly an activity tainted with reproach, but, just like tobacco, that doesn't keep every government from benefitting from it by allowing it and taxing it.

    Of course, you cannot forbid gambling because, if you do, you'll just get criminal gambling centers run by thugs. So it makes sense that the government has a hand in ensuring that, at least, the gambling is done fairly.

    You also have casinos, where gambling is authorized and, hopefully, the casinos are regularly audited.

    But, just like prostitution, gambling is not going away.

    1. deive

      Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

      All that is true, although one large difference is there aren't any multimillionaire prostitutes "donating" to our politicians.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

        > All that is true, although one large difference is there aren't any multimillionaire prostitutes "donating" to our politicians.

        Donations no, but said madams may have other forms of influence over MPs. That said, any wealthy prostitutes have, by definition, become wealthy under the current legislation, so don't have any financial reason to seek change (though they may of course have moral reasons to change the status quo).

        And of course, successful madams or freelancers who service politicians aren't representing of the majority of sex workers.

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

        Prostitutes, no. But there may well be multimillionaire pimps making donations...

      3. newspuppy

        Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

        Of course there are not multi-millionaire prostitutes giving money to politicians...

        we have instead the hybrid politicians prostituting themselves for millions.

    2. Andy Non

      Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

      "gambling is not going away"

      In my opinion adverts for gambling should be banned from TV. I see ads trying to sucker people in at the thin end of the wedge with 2p bingo cards making them seem all glamorous and that it will instantly give gamblers lots of friends. As all forms of gambling pay out on average far less than people pay in, gambling is a game for suckers. A fool and their money are soon parted.

      1. alain williams Silver badge

        Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

        In my opinion adverts for gambling should be banned from TV.

        And they should describe the national lottery as what it is: "gambling" not "playing".

        1. ICL1900-G3

          Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

          The lottery, described by Ian Hislop as a tax on the stupid.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

            Voltaire said much the same, as I think, did Adam Smith

    3. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

      Lottery is a tax on people who suck at maths... less than half of the money going into the lottery is paid out. That's all there is to it, the bank always wins.

      1. Alex Stuart

        Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

        You're right, mathematically speaking you're better keeping the £1 than buying a lottery ticket, but I don't completely begrudge people who gamble a few spare quid on lotteries with prizes of millions to be won.

        With a £1 spend you get;

        a) the buzz of watching the numbers to see if you win

        b) the > 0% chance, however slim, of a 100,000,000%+ return instantly making you 'rich'.

        c) miniscule detriment from overall return if you use all of your other spare £s on sensible investments

        For some people, that's a good way to spend £1, from a) alone.

        Of course if you start throwing many £1s at this gamble, the equation breaks down - a) remains fixed, b) only goes from 'really, really, really slim' to 'really, really slim' , and c) tends towards a significant detriment...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

        Lottery is a tax on people who suck at maths

        I used to think so too, until I asked a friend who would buy a lottery ticket each week, and he explained it to me:

        First of all, every ticket wins. All the time. The error we all make is to think the prize are the vague millions promised, which everybody knows nobody ever wins. No, the award is simply hope.

        You might have noticed most gamblers come from low-income environments: Buying a ticket gives them for a week the hope they might get out of their bland life, hope that they potentially might one day escape their nasty, underpaid job under a sociopath boss, and start living at last. That's well worth a couple quid (or whatever a lottery ticket costs).

        1. Martin
          Thumb Up

          Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

          That's a really good point, and one I'll mention to my more financially astute brother when he tells me the couple of grand I've got in Premium Bonds is better invested elsewhere. He's of course right, from a purely mathematical point of view. But once a month, I think...maybe....just maybe....

          And even an occasional £25 prize is far more fun than a few quid a month in interest.

        2. jmch Silver badge

          Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

          "gives them for a week the hope they might get out of their bland life, hope that they potentially might one day escape their nasty, underpaid job under a sociopath boss, and start living at last."

          Apropos of that, most lottery winners end up poor again within a few years because they have no idea how to manage the sudden windfall, splurge it all in a few years and then are back where they started.

          1. Martin

            Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

            ...most lottery winners end up poor again within a few years because they have no idea how to manage the sudden windfall, splurge it all in a few years and then are back where they started.

            Evidence, please. Not every working-class lottery or pools winner is a Viv Nicholson.

            1. Martin

              Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

              And actually - here's one bit of actual evidence.

              Lottery turns 25 - 25 facts.

              3. Taking into account everything a winner has done with their money, including spending, saving and gifting, only 82 per cent of winners reveal that they are now as - or more - well off than the day they first received their winnings.

              So, at the time this was written, 82% are better off, or the same as before. 18% are worse off.

              Not entirely convinced that indicates that "most lottery winners end up poor again within a few years".

              1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

                Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

                I upvoted you on this, then a thought hit me.

                That 82% is incredibly vague. I suspect deliberately so.

                Of that 82%, how many have returned to "as well off as they were before"? How many of those were poor to start with?

                Depending on the numbers, that could correlate well with "most lottery winners end up poor again within a few years".

                Without a more detailed look at the data there's no way to know. I don't expect lottery providers will be forthcoming on that, because it could easily go against their narrative.

      3. jmch Silver badge

        Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

        I get that some people enjoy the excitement of a gamble, and I'm not against that. However one can get a 'cheap thrill' in many ways much cheaper than gambling.

        The worst thing is that anyone thinks it solves anything by putting an 8pt font "please gamble responsibly" at the end of every advert. Large scale gambling is social poison, it should be treated like cigarettes - Legal, but with clear giant-font warning labels such as "gambling can rui your life" and "you have as much chance of winning as being hit by lightning"; complete bans of gambling ads around schools, youth centres or anywhere involved in sport; combined with educating kids in schools about the maths of gambling. Trying to stamp out supply will drive it underground.

        The sad thing is that even with the billions of pounds rolling around in sports like football, there is still so much gambling money in there that clubs are beholden to that income.

      4. TheSirFin

        Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

        A good chuck of the money not handed out goes to funding Olympic medals at the expensive "sitting down" sports (cycling, sailing, rowing, riding)s o we can all indulge in a bit of 4yrearly flag waving .... which I guess is still a lot better than it going to the unfit fatcats at BedFred etc ;-)

    4. fajensen

      Re: "the study is silent on these factors"

      You also have casinos, where gambling is authorized and, hopefully, the casinos are regularly audited.

      Casinos, IMO, exists for the purpose of getting some taxation extracted out of intermediate amounts money being laundered.

      Same with horse racing. At "my place" one regularly sees "silly" 2-3 kEUR bets made by white-van-man characters on 1.05 odds (like favorites in "Place"). They of course blow up occasionally, but, on average, a pile of dodgy cash becomes "earned & taxed" money through gambling.

      Everything bigger goes through the financial markets.

  2. bryces666

    increased mortality / likelihood of death

    I'm pretty sure the likelihood of death is 100% for everyone regardless of whether you are a gambler or not. Maybe the article meant to say an early death? :)

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: increased mortality / likelihood of death

      'Mortality Rate' by convention, "is a measure of the number of deaths in a particular population, scaled to the size of that population, per unit of time."

      So yeah, as you say, number over time.

      No doubt the actual paper will have stated their units.

  3. Cuddles

    Not really surprising

    ""Traditionally we've thought that there is a small pot of individuals who are labelled as 'problem gamblers' and there's harm there, and for the vast majority of people there's no harm associated with gambling," Muggleton said. "But what we find here is that there's more of a continuum."

    Look at pretty much any potentially harmful behaviour, and you see exactly the same thing. A small group of people who take things to clearly extremely detrimental extremes, and a huge pile of people who aren't quite so bad and span the whole range down to those who only indulge so rarely that any harm can't be measured at all. Drinking, smoking, eating, whatever, it's all the same. Why would gambling be any different?

  4. MJI Silver badge

    Gambling is getting shoved in our faces.

    More than fags ever were.

    On TV, sadverts, little bits between programmes and sadverts, sportsteams. Push push push, in our faces all the time.

  5. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse


    If anything shows that regular gambling is a mugs game and that the odds are against you, then it's the fact that the owner of the Bet365 website has paid herself over £500m in dividends over the last couple of years.

  6. Joe W Silver badge

    Dependent vs. independent variables

    The model as described in the caption is... flawed. It is (in R-formula notation) something like

    (death rate) ~ gambling

    (gambling influences the death rate)

    It is, as stated in the article, more like gambling being a proxy for an unhealthy life style (which in turn can be a result of social stratum[*]), which in turn leads to the higher than population average death rate. It is briefly discussed in this article, but the headline is oh so more catchy (I don't blame you). The interesting thing is that 1) there seems to be a rather heavy tail of those really small scale gamblers, and 2) even at those low levels the statistical relationship between the gambling and death rate apparently hold (though I have not checked their methods, interesting as it may be, I just hope that they used something rank based for the tests, or at least a sensible transformation for the data).

    Same with a graph I once saw that correlated the number of nobel laureates per 1000000 inhabitants to the chocolate consumption in kg/year/capita. Switzerland was doing really well. In that case, chocolate is a proxy for wealth, for the amount of income that is not used for very basic sustenance, and a wealthy country usually has a good educational system, leading to more highly skilled scientists. I think the R^2 value was 0.8-ish?

    [*] some go even as far as saying that state-owned lottery is just another poor tax, as those who tend to play the lottery are most often not those who then use the infrastructure paid for by the state-owned lottery companies' funds.

  7. heyrick Silver badge

    Bet you a tenner this SpaceX rocket will blow up spectacu...urg...ugh...argh... <plonk>

    See? Proof. Gambling kills.

  8. Aaiieeee

    I, on occasion, play the Lotto. I am very aware of the odds but as has been previously noted the feeling of possibility is worth £1*. I don't expect to win and the participation is enough to quench the gambling itch.

    As for the study, should I start diging my grave now?

    *I play hotpicks 5 on the basis that £350k will do nicely thank you. Millions would be ruinous; I'd just like the mortgage paid and to knock a decade or two off my working life.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      I play Euromillions. I don't smoke, drink, take drugs (except the stuff in tea and sugar), so I can justify a lottery ticket as a possibility of better. I'm quite well aware that money usually goes in one direction and the odds of winning are BIGNUM to 1, however some people do win so it's a (far flung) possibility.

      I'd rather like to win France's "MyMillion" because that seems like a reasonably sane amount of money. Get the house fixed up nice, retire, enjoy myself without going crazy. The draw tonight is a mere €130,000,000. Not sure what the hell I'd do if I won that, it's kind of a stupid amount of money to be honest. I guess the most likely reaction would be a heart attack which would amply demonstrate the point of this article...

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        > Not sure what the hell I'd do if I won that, it's kind of a stupid amount of money

        Well, in the Paris region, where a nice house (not the common 3-cupboards configuration with 20 cm of "garden" round the house) costs upwards of one million, any "I'm filthy rich" type of prize has to be over 10 millions...

        So, get a nice house with a real garden, furnish it, stop working for a living and henceforth only do things you like to; Kind of early retirement, but without loss of purchasing power. Travel, visit the nice places of the world, Make sure your kids and your relatives' kids can study. Create a family foundation to keep your family and descendants safe when you're gone, and you will be fondly remembered through the ages.

        Alternatively, buy a couple supercars and a kilo of coke, rent the presidential suite in the most expensive hotel, and spend your nights in some luxury casino, surrounded by the most desirable call girls/boys. When the week-end is over and the money spent, go back to your current life and live in memories of the couple days you were a millionaire.

        There is unsurprisingly lots of stuff you can do with lots of money, although some are more sound than others. Your imagination is the only limit...

    2. Dave559 Silver badge


      I'm very skeptical about Lotto Hotpicks. You're pinning all your hopes on getting every single one of the numbers you have chosen, otherwise you win absolutely nothing. If you played the normal Lotto game, you would still win something if you match anything from two numbers upwards (it might be more likely to be a fairly small prize, but it would still be something).

      In addition, most of the other lottery games seem to be cynically designed to be extra hard to win, requiring not only some of the normal numbers but also one or more additional so-called "lucky" numbers from a separate set of balls to be matched as well.

      Having said that, I do play, once a week, hoping for that win. I know I'm personally quids down overall, but the fact that a good proportion of the money goes to good causes is at least some recompense. One of my favourite charities was one of the earliest awards, so I figure that as long as I spend less than £42M, I'm a winner in the greater scheme of things…

      (And to mention Premium Bonds in passing: at least there, if you don't win, you can get your money back at any time. Yes, you have lost out on the money you would have earned had you put the money in a savings account, or invested it (which has its own risks), but with savings interest rates currently so low, it seems worth it for the chance of at least a medium win, if not a big one.)

      1. Aaiieeee

        Re: Lotteries

        I think prize tiering for the lotto is fairly poor: it jumps from £1750 for 5 numbers to £1m for 5+bonus, there is no decent middle ground. £1750 is nice and all, but its just a part of a normal pay check, nothing very special.

        Also, the lotto 5 balls + bonus has odds of 1 in 7.5 million whereas Hotpicks 5 has odds of 1 in 800k with a prize which would change my life.

        Either way we play with optimism rather than necessity, so here's one on me* :)

        *paid for with earnings not winnings, sadly.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alzheimer causes old age!

    By simply taking numbers out of all context one can find all kinds of funny correlations: Obesity increases food intake. Sunburns increase exposition to sunlight. And so on.

    Gambling is either A. a minor psychological malfunction with regards to risk-taking (we all need to take some risks in life, and for some this is exacerbated), or it is B. a coping mechanism around the promise of an improvement in your usually otherwise unsavory life. You don't see rich and successful people in the B. group. Wealthy people gambling belong all to the A. group.

    The A. group can benefit from professional help, and might need to be kept under watch for they make up the big spenders, while the B. group members are mostly harmless, they make up the huge mass of people playing regularly little amounts. They are poor, retired (usually both), and just need the prospect that things might improve.

    So yes, poverty and death are correlated with gambling, but only because of the masses of old, retired people gambling. Gambling doesn't actually age you.

    1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: Alzheimer causes old age!

      "So yes, poverty and death are correlated with gambling ... "

      Alcohol also causes death. Each unit shortens your life by two minutes. I've done the maths*, apparently I died in 1542.

      * For our plurally challenged cousins - math

  10. Cynic_999

    Highest risk gambling

    I read another study that showed that the gambling activity that correlates most strongly to a shortened life span is Russian Roulette.

    1. Danny 2

      Re: Highest risk gambling

      People Also Ask...

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      Smaller than the original Glock 17, a Glock 19 still carries twice as many bullets as a revolver while being lighter and bearing a slimmer profile. Although some firearms experts characterize the nine-millimeter round as anemic, special ammunition can boost the Glock's ability to immediately incapacitate the target.

      Kind of ruins Russian roulette night though.

      I asked for a lottery ticket for my last birthday present, mostly because it was cheap but also to check if the universe wants me to be poor - it does. Gambling should be legal but gambling machines, businesses and advertising should be illegal.

  11. steelpillow Silver badge

    Cause and effect

    A classic mistake in these studies is to apply one's personal prejudices to their interpretation and assume cause and effect. We see a correlation, fine. But does gambling cause bad things, do bad things make us more likely to gamble, or does something else lead us astray in both directions?

  12. IGotOut Silver badge

    Don't need this study.

    It's a well established that fact.

    The poor generally are more likely to gamble, due to hoping to improve things. This is why there are far more bookies in poor areas than wealthy areas.

    The poor are more likely to gamble more than they can afford, chasing the dream.

    The poor are more likely to die earlier due to poor health care, diet, polutiowork-relatedted illness, depression and on and on.

    You don't need to use big data to prove the bleeding obvious.

    1. Keven E

      Re: Don't need this study.

      Yeah... and stop calling my lifestyle "negative"! lol

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The study also included pre-existing markers for spending associated with health and lifestyle."

    This is the scary bit. Deducing your lifestyle from transactions. I wonder how much of that gets sold?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I wonder how much of that gets sold?

      All of it, how do you think "credit rating" agencies make money.

  14. GuyHome

    Does the social rank of a person affect this study ? Is it based on one's performance in the gambling in general or are multiple life factors are included as well ?

    That would be interesting to know if a person addicted to gambling is addicted to it as a result of bad experiences in life, or in contrary, by passion or fun, the need became bigger than the pleasure itself, and thus, in any case, lead to those terrible and sad act. That's actually affecting a lot more people that we can think of and not much studies put the lights on it.

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