Nov 30

Prevalence of problem gambling in Sweden

The prevalence of gambling problems in Sweden remained largely unchanged between 2009 and 2010. There was a trend towards lower prevalence – down from 2.2 percent to 1.9 percent – but it was not statistically significant. Gambling problems were defined as respondents scoring three points or higher on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). The information is presented in a recent paper published in the journal International Gambling Studies, discussing data from the first two prevalence studies in the Swedish longitudinal gambling studies (SWELOGS).

This means that gambling problems, according to the three national prevalence surveys conducted this far in Sweden, have on a population level remained largely unchanged since 1999. However, gambling problems among young males doubled between 1999 and 2009.

Additional data on problem gambling prevalence is offered by the general health surveys conducted by the Swedish National Institute of Public Health (SNIPH). These surveys include four questions on gambling problems derived from the SOGS instrument, which have been selected because they perform well in discriminating between problem and problem-free gamblers. The following figures (source) show the percentages (confidence interval within brackets) of people answering in the affirmative to one or more of the four questions:

2004 4.1 % (3,7-4,4)
2005 3.8 % (3,3-4,3)
2006 3,8 % (3,3-4,3)
2007 4,2 % (3,6-4,7)
2008 3,7 % (3,3-4,0)
2009 3,7 % (3,3-4,0)
2010 3,3 % (2,9-3,6)

Another set of measurements is the yearly surveys made by the state owned gambling company Svenska Spel. No standard instrument for measuring problem gambling is used but rather a set of questions resembling parts of the SOGS-instrument (video of presentation, table shown at 4:00 minutes, no confidence intervals are presented):

1999 1,8 %
2000 1,5 %
2001 1,2 %
2002 1,9 %
2003 1,2 %
2004 1,3 %
2005 1,6 %
2006 1,4 %
2007 1,9 %
2008 1,5 %
2009 1,2 %
2010 1,4 %

What can we conclude from these three sets of measurements of problem gambling in Sweden? One thing is sure. The prevalence of gambling problems in the general population have remained about the same between 1999 and 2010. There are indications of a sudden increase in problems in 2007, which would coincide with the poker boom. This would be expected, since a lot of people played internet poker and a substantial proportion of them experienced gambling problems. It has been estimated that about one third of the players showed some sign of risky or problematic gambling behavior.

Gambling problems thus tend to remain, over longer periods of time, at the same level despite the introduction of new risky forms of gambling. This can be explained by preventive measures being effective, an increasing awareness of the risks of gambling, and that players adapt to new forms of gambling and a higher risks level.


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