WOMEN & GAMBLING DISORDER - update 2023
Literature and studies that specifically focus on women and problem gambling are still scarce – in Italy, in Europe and across the globe. Available data are frequently extrapolated from research studies in mostly male samples. Nevertheless, access of women to diverse gambling opportunities is increasing, and consequently, more and more women are involved in gambling and develop related problems. A health authority survey from Sweden indicated that, for the first time, in 2019 most of Swedes with gambling problems are women (Romild, 2019; https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47814630). Similar tendencies are observable in the USA a, in Asia and in northern Europe too. Now we get updates about the increasing comorbidity and gravity of gambling disorder in women gamblers in UK and Sweden, with a new challenge for clinician and researchers.
Increases in gambling activity and related problems among women may be related to ever-expanding online gambling opportunities and "new game forms" on the internet with changing gaming patterns and aggressive advertising targeted at women. Previous research has suggested that gambling problems among women are often underestimated, although they can have a severe impact on their social and personal life. As indicated in our recent research, many women face grave barriers when seeking treatment and it is particularly difficult to find female-oriented treatment options. Worldwide, only a few – albeit interesting – female-specific treatment approaches have been studied and these remain unknown to most clinicians.
What do we do?
It is the hope and aim of our group to gather information about all efforts dedicated toward improving this situation, and to share, discuss and improve ongoing research and clinical work worldwide. I (Fulvia Prever), together with many other colleagues from across the globe, have tried to build on this idea and gave birth to an international and transcultural network and an innovative manual " Gambling Disorders in Women. An International Female Perspective on Treatment and Research” edited by H.Bowden Jones& F. Prever, translated in several languages. This network brought together many female professionals with diverse cultural and professional backgrounds and high expertise in problem gambling and gambling disorder among women. During the past decade, and thanks to the EASG, we have been represented in dedicated Women sessions and round tables at every conference and you can find this dedicated slot on the EASG website.
This is a space where you can connect with me and the group and share your ideas. This will help us to develop new collaborations for future research and conference presentations.
What did we learn?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, with prolonged lockdowns and increased anxiety and depression, women have a special role in their families and carry a particular burden. Many were working while handling children care, elderly care, and often facing difficult relationship. This led to an increase of domestic violence in many countries and could provoke an urge to escape from a tough reality. The long period of closure of casinos and other gambling venues could be seen as an opportunity for some female problem gamblers – but it might also provoke a shift to online gambling and to new or intensified gambling related problems. We experienced, for the first time, a universal and complete closure of “in-person” gambling and we observed what was happening to women in treatment. Many female gamblers reported a sense of relief – finally, they did not have to struggle to stay away from gambling venues and were able to concentrate on their treatment and explore new (and more adaptive) coping mechanisms. Very few Italian women – like those from Mediterranean countries and South America – shifted to online gambling and many perceived this time as an opportunity to overcome their gambling problems. Women with gambling problems who were not receiving treatment during pandemic, often caught in a stressful situation, might shift to other maladaptive coping mechanisms such as eating problems, alcohol, or legal drugs abuse: indeed, prescription requests for antidepressants have increased during this period. As clinicians, we were tasked with finding new ways to engage with our patients and clients to support them from a (physical) distance. For example, in our women’s treatment group in Milano, we produced videos to describe our shared experience of this unprecedented time. Our network is here – engaged and connected – sharing observations and ideas from each country and continent. We tried to find new tools, from a female perspective, to support women and improve research to be able to provide evidence-based treatment options tailored to the specific needs of women with gambling problems and gambling disorder, respectively.
Where are we going?
In those times, when international in-person conferences and meetings were difficult to organize, we explored new ways to keep in touch, support ourselves during pandemic and promote our studies; that’s how a new book on women’s behavioural addictions was born, and will be published in June 2023! https://www.routledge.com/Behavioural-Addiction-in-Women-An-International-Female-Perspective-onTreatment/Prever-Blycker-Brandt/p/book/9781032067025#
Please use the following link / email address to join the network and get updates on all our proposals and activities: firstname.lastname@example.org
After the great success in Oslo Conference 2022, we are preparing for next outstanding Conference EASG 2024, in our beautiful Rome! We are so happy to finally organize in Italy these women sessions and round table – same winning format - a female perspective and a gender approach.
It has been such an appealing and productive idea, going on since 2014, that seemed to be a hint for many other component of the conference!
Get in touch to have the chance to share your work in a very special session! Check www.easg2022.org for more info.
Fulvia Prever, Psychologist, Psychotherapist Scientific Director of Women&Gambling Project SUNNCOOPItaly,
EASG International Referral for Women&Gambling Addictions,
ISSBA International Referral for Behavioural Addiction in Women ;
President of Varenna Foundation Mobile 0039 3477021129