Gambling problems among United Kingdom armed forces veterans: Associations with gambling motivation and posttraumatic stress disorder

Research and Data
Author(s): Glen Dighton, Katie Wood, Cherie Armour, Matt Fossey, Lee Hogan, Neil Kitchiner, Justyn Larcombe, Robert D. Rogers, and Simon Dymond.
Year Published: 2023


The aim of this paper is to describe the findings of a survey designed to investigate sociodemographic, military service, mental health, gambling activities, and motivation variables as predictors of problem gambling among a large sample of UK veterans. In total, 5,147 responses were received to the online survey (2,535 veterans and 2,612 nonveterans).


Quantitative Data Highlights

  • 43.1% of veterans (and 6.5% of non-veterans) experienced problem gambling.
  • Veterans were over 10 times more likely to be distinguished by problem gambling than non-veterans.
  • Veterans were over 4 times more likely to have gambled in the past and did so on more activities than non-veterans.
  • Veterans who gambled were over 7 times more likely to be motivated to do so due to avoid or escape from distress.
PTSD Related Data
  • Notable that 8.6% veterans in the current study met criteria for likely PTSD, with 26.6% indicating probable C-PTSD
  • Veterans are almost 7 times more likely than non-veterans to C-PTSD, a diagnosis with more severe criteria than PTSD.
  • 6% indicate probable C-PTSD.


Risk Factors

  • Mild anxiety.
  • Being in receipt of benefits.
  • Being discharged 9–13 years ago.
  • Serving for between 0 and 4 years.
  • Living in supported accommodation.
  • Living in privately rented accommodation.
  • Alcohol dependence and higher risk drinking.


Protective Factors

  • Age.
  • White-British ethnicity.
  • Being medically discharged.
  • Living with non-family members.
  • Being discharged 25+ years ago.
  • Serving for between 10 and 19 years.
  • Being discharged at their own request.
  • Not being deployed during their career.
  • Discharge due to a reason listed as ‘other’.
  • Achieving a Doctorate as one’s highest qualification.


Qualitative Data Highlights

  • UK veterans were at increased risk of problem gambling.
  • Veterans gambled on more activities than their non-veterans, and their gambling was motivated by negative reinforcement (escape from or avoidance of distress).
    • This unique finding parallels the elevated levels of alcohol misuse that is considered a potential negative coping strategy in veterans.



  • Collecting data online may have inadvertently excluded older veterans, those without access to the internet, and the homeless.



  • Findings indicate that longer service in the armed forces may be a protective factor.
  • Greater difficulties were most pronounced in early service leavers serving in the army as noncommissioned officers (NCOs)/ Other Ranks.
  • Problem gambling is significantly higher in UK veterans, is a likely coping mechanism for mental health conditions, and driven by a need to avoid or escape distress.
  • In veterans, problem gambling co-occurred with C-PTSD.



  • Determining both the antecedents and motivations (i.e. consequences) of gambling may aid in the development of individualized treatment plans and assist with cross-validation of self-report-based assessment interviews.
  • Screening for problem gambling should be undertaken to provide improved treatment and support.


Read Full Research Article


Glen Dighton, Katie Wood, Cherie Armour, Matt Fossey, Lee Hogan, Neil Kitchiner, Justyn Larcombe, Robert D.Rogers & Simon Dymond (2023) Gambling problems among United Kingdom armed forces veterans: Associations with gambling motivation and posttraumatic stress disorder, International Gambling Studies, 23:1, 35-56, DOI: 10.1080/14459795.2022.2063923 

Further Reading