How do students view gaming and gambling?

Students are arriving at university as digital natives.  To better understand the world as students see it, the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust looked into the attitudes and behaviours of higher education students and gaming and gambling.

Students, gaming and the digital world

Young people believe the digital world offers positive social and emotional benefits. Previous Young Minds research showed 4 in 5 young adults aged between 16-24 years believe digital technology plays a positive role in their relationships. YGAM’s insight into student attitudes to gaming supports this, identifying students play digital games for entertainment and gain benefits including stress reduction, challenge and social interactions.

Gaming is popular. 79% of respondents played digital games, 35% gaming daily or on most days. Nearly half spent over 4 hours a day on a digital device and one-third said they were not easily able to switch off from their device. Add this to the insight that 86 % of students say the last thing they do before they go to sleep is check a digital device, the concern is that they may not be digitally resilient and may not recognise they could have, or develop an issue.

A link between regular gaming and an impact on academic performance is evidenced, possibly for the first time, with nearly half of students who game regularly saying it had got in the way of their academic performance. It highlights an opportunity to help students keep gaming habits in-check, as those who game 3 days or less a week become increasingly likely to say that gaming never got in the way of academic performance. Regular gaming also presented other challenges.  One fifth who game every day reported a negative sense of belonging at university, and over one-third said it has got in the way of their social life.

Gambling to relieve financial pressures

Gambling is less prevalent in with 47% of students surveyed said they had gambled in the last 12 months. Yet for students affected by gambling, the negative impact is significant. Researchers, Red Brick used a recognised index – the Short Form Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) – to explore attitudes and experiences. This showed that 16% of students can be identified as moderate risk or problem gamblers, that’s about 264,000 students in the UK already at some risk from gambling and 88,000 can already defined as problem gamblers.

The findings show that students gamble to try to ease and improve their finances whilst at university. For students who had gambled, nearly three-fifths (59%) said they are always worrying about their financial situation while 16% have gambled more than they could afford. The research also reveals that they gamble to escape the stresses of university, a factor that students who game, also identified with.

For students who are moderate risk or problem gamblers the challenges are even greater. They are more likely to gamble to cheer them up when they are depressed, even though 9 in 10 feel guilty about the way they have gambled. One third also said their gambling habits have a negative effect on their wellbeing, over half have considered dropping out of university and one in seven have a negative perception of their overall university experience.

A link between student gambling behaviours and academic confidence also emerged.  22% of students gambling to cheer themselves up when they are depressed, have a negative perception of whether they can fulfil their goals at university while nearly 1-in-5 a negative perception of their academic performance. The research also highlighted that a high proportion of moderate risk and problem gamblers leave university premises to gamble which, especially those who go to betting shops/casinos, can be linked to the need to make up for a lack of friendships at university.

Practical support

Student wellbeing is a real concern. Universities are already overwhelmed with this challenge and we don’t want to add to the weight of responsibility. When I started on this project, we had two clear goals in mind to help universities, unions and their students. One – find out if there is a hidden issue and what that issue actually is. Two – be a practical part of the solution.

YGAM’s aim is to expand their University & Student Engagement Programme to provide resources, support and information around the attitudes, experiences and resulting behaviours that may be affecting the university experience. I want to open dialogue with others working in this space and where YGAM can be of practical help. We’d love to hear more about what is already happening – and help with the response.

The full report is available on YGAM’s website

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