Journal of Gambling Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 33–48 | Cite as

Barriers to Help-seeking for a Gambling Problem: The Experiences of Gamblers Who Have Sought Specialist Assistance and the Perceptions of Those Who Have Not

  • Justin Pulford
  • Maria Bellringer
  • Max Abbott
  • Dave Clarke
  • David Hodgins
  • Jeremy Williams
Original Paper


This paper presents barriers to help-seeking data as reported by users of a national gambling helpline (help-seekers, HS, N = 125) as well as data pertaining to perceived barriers to seeking help as reported by gamblers recruited from the general population (non-help-seekers, NHS, N = 104). All data were collected via a structured, multi-modal survey. When asked to identify actual or perceived barriers to seeking help, responses indicative of pride (78% of HS participants, 84% of NHS participants), shame (73% of HS participants, 84% of NHS participants) or denial (87% of NHS participants) were most frequently reported. These three factors were also most often identified as the real or perceived primary barrier to help-seeking (collectively accounting for 55% of HS, and 60% of NHS, responses to this question) and were the only barriers to be identified by more than 10% of either HS and NHS participants without prompting. It was of note, however, that participants in both groups identified multiple barriers to help-seeking (mean of 6.7 and 12.2, respectively) and that, when presented with a list of 21 possible barrier items, NHS participants endorsed 19 of the listed items significantly more often than their HS counterparts. The implications of these findings, with respect to promoting greater or earlier help-seeking activity amongst problem gamblers, are discussed.


Barriers Help-seeking Problem gambling New Zealand 



This study was funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Health. We would like to thank Gareth Edwards for managing the questionnaire design process, TongJing (Lucy) Lu, Priscilla Clarke and Papa Nahi for assistance with data collection, and Nick Garrett for biostatistical advice.


  1. Abbott, M. W. (2001). Problem and non-problem gamblers in New Zealand: A report on phase two of the 1999 National Prevalence Survey. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs.Google Scholar
  2. Abbott, M. W., McKenna, B. G., & Giles, L. C. (2006). Gambling and problem gambling among recently sentenced male prisoners in four New Zealand prisons. Journal of Gambling Studies, 21(4), 537–558. doi: 10.1007/s10899-005-5562-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Abbott, M. W., & Volberg, R. (2000). Taking the pulse on gambling and problem gambling in New Zealand: A report on phase one of the 1999 national prevalence survey. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs.Google Scholar
  4. Apodaca, T. R., & Miller, W. R. (2003). A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of bibliotherapy for alcohol problems. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 59(3), 289–304. doi: 10.1002/jclp.10130.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chiarelli, N. (2006). Word-of-mouth marketing: The global rise of word of mouth. Brand Strategy, Oct 9, 42.Google Scholar
  6. Cox, B., Yu, N., Afifi, T., & Ladouceur, R. (2005). A National Survey of Gambling Problems in Canada. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 50(4), 213–217.Google Scholar
  7. Cunningham-Williams, R. M., Abdallah, A. B., Callahan, C., & Cottler, L. (2007). Problem gambling and violence among community-recruited female substance abusers. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 21(2), 239–243. doi: 10.1037/0893-164X.21.2.239.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cunningham, J., Hodgins, D., & Toneatto, T. (2008). Problem gamblers’ interest in self-help services. Psychiatric Services (Washington, DC), 59(6), 695–696. doi: 10.1176/ Scholar
  9. Del Boca, F. K., & Darkes, J. (2003). The validity of self-reports of alcohol consumption: State of the science and challenges for research. Addiction, 98(Suppl. 2), 1–12. doi: 10.1046/j.1359-6357.2003.00586.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Evans, L., & Delfabbro, P. H. (2005). Motivators for change and barriers to help-seeking in Australian problem gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 21(2), 133–155. doi: 10.1007/s10899-005-3029-4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gruenewald, P. J., & Johnson, F. W. (2006). The stability and reliability of self-reported drinking measures. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 67(5), 738–745.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Hodgins, D., Currie, S., & el-Guebaly, N. (2001). Motivational enhancement and self-help treatments for problem gambling. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69(1), 50–57. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.69.1.50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hodgins, D., Currie, S. R., el-Guebaly, N., & Peden, N. (2004). Brief motivational treatment for problem gambling: 24 month follow-up. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 18(3), 293–296. doi: 10.1037/0893-164X.18.3.293.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hodgins, D., & el-Guebaly, N. (2000). Recovery from gambling problems: A comparison of resolved and active gamblers. Addiction, 95(5), 777–789. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.2000.95577713.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hodgins, D., Shead, W., & Makarchuk, K. (2007a). Relationship satisfaction and psychological distress among concerned significant others of pathological gamblers. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 195(1), 65–71. doi: 10.1097/01.nmd.0000252382.47434.a6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hodgins, D., Toneatto, T., Makarchuk, K., Skinner, W., & Vincent, S. (2007b). Minimal treatment approaches for concerned significant others of problem gamblers: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Gambling Studies, 23(2), 215–230. doi: 10.1007/s10899-006-9052-2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ladouceur, R., Boisvert, J.-M., Pepin, M., & Loranger, M. (1994). Social cost of pathological gambling. Journal of Gambling Behavior, 10(4), 399–409. doi: 10.1007/BF02104905.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McMillen, J., Marshall, D., Murphy, L., Lorenzen, S., & Waugh, B. (2004). Help-seeking by problem gamblers, friends and families: A focus on gender and cultural groups. Acton, ACT, Australia: ACT Gambling and Racing Commission.Google Scholar
  19. Ministry of Health. (2007). Problem Gambling Intervention Services in New Zealand: 2006 Service-user statistics. Wellington: Ministry of Health.Google Scholar
  20. Morasco, B. J., vom Eigen, K. A., & Petry, N. M. (2006). Severity of gambling is associated with physical and emotional health in urban primary care patients. General Hospital Psychiatry, 28(2), 94–100. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2005.09.004.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pallesen, S., Mitsem, M., Kvale, G., Johnsen, B.-H., & Molde, H. (2005). Outcome of psychological treatments of pathological gambling: A review and meta-analysis. Addiction, 100(10), 1412–1422. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.01204.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Pallesen, S., Molde, H., Arnestad, H. M., Laberg, J. C., Skutle, A., Iverson, E., et al. (2007). Outcome of pharmacological treatments for pathological gambling: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 27(4), 357–364. doi: 10.1097/jcp.013e3180dcc304d.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Patford, J. (2007). Linked lives: Adult children’s experiences of late onset parental gambling problems. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 5(4), 367–380. doi: 10.1007/s11469-007-9077-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pietrzak, R. H., Morasco, B. J., Blanco, C., Grant, B. F., & Petry, N. M. (2007). Gambling level and psychiatric and medical disorders in older adults: Results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 15(4), 301–314. doi: 10.1097/ Scholar
  25. Productivity Commission. (1999). Australia’s gambling industries: Inquiry report. Melbourne: Australian Government Productivity Commission.Google Scholar
  26. Pulford, J., Bellringer, M. E., Abbott, M., Clarke, D., Hodgins, D., & Williams, J. D. Reasons for seeking help for a gambling problem: The experiences of gamblers who have sought specialist assistance and the perceptions of those who have not. Journal of Gambling Studies, in press. doi: 10.1007/s10899-008-9112-x.
  27. Rockloff, M., & Schofield, G. (2004). Factor analysis of barriers to treatment for problem gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 20(2), 121–126. doi: 10.1023/B:JOGS.0000022305.01606.da.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Slutske, W. S. (2006). Natural recovery and treatment-seeking in pathological gambling: Results of two U.S. national surveys. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 163(2), 297–302. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.163.2.297.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Suurvali, H., Hodgins, D., Toneatto, T., & Cunningham, J. Treatment-seeking among Ontario problem gamblers: Results of a population survey. Psychiatric Services, in press.Google Scholar
  30. Tavares, H., Martins, S., Zilberman, M. L., & el-Guebaly, N. (2002). Gamblers seeking treatment: Why haven’t they come earlier? Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment, 1(2), 65–69. doi: 10.1097/00132576-200206000-00005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wardle, H., Sproston, K., Orford, J., Erens, B., Griffiths, M., Constantine, R., et al. (2007). British gambling prevalence survey 2007. London: National Centre for Social Research.Google Scholar
  32. Welte, J., Barnes, G., Wieczorek, W., Tidwell, M., & Parker, J. (2001). Alcohol and gambling pathology among U.S Adults: Prevalence, demographic patterns and comorbidity. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 62(5), 706–712.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justin Pulford
    • 1
  • Maria Bellringer
    • 1
  • Max Abbott
    • 1
  • Dave Clarke
    • 2
  • David Hodgins
    • 3
  • Jeremy Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Gambling and Addictions Research Centre, National Institute for Public Health and Mental Health Research, Faculty of Health and Environmental SciencesAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of PsychologyMassey UniversityAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CalgaryAlbertaCanada

Personalised recommendations