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Gambling and the Role of Resilience in an International Online Sample of Current and Ex-serving Military Personnel as Compared to the General Population

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Compared to the general population, military personnel are particularly vulnerable to developing gambling problems. The present study examined the presentation of gambling—including gambling frequency, personal thoughts on reducing gambling and recommendations from others to reduce gambling—across these populations. Additionally, the study measured the association between gambling and various psychosocial risk and protective factors—including psychological distress, suicidal ideation, external encouragement to reduce substance use, days out of role, personal wellbeing, resilience, social support and intimate bonds. Data was extracted from the Global Health & Wellbeing Survey, an online self-report survey conducted in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Of the 10,765 eligible respondents, 394 were military veterans and 337 were active military personnel. Consistent with previous research, a higher proportion of gambling behaviours were observed in both current and ex-serving military samples, compared to the general population. To varying degrees, significant associations were found between the different gambling items and all psychosocial risk and protective factors in the general population sample. However, the military sample yielded only one significant association between gambling frequency and the protective factor ‘resilience’. A post hoc stepwise linear regression analysis demonstrated the possible mediating role resilience plays between gambling frequency and other psychosocial risk (psychological distress, and suicidal thoughts and behaviour) and protective factors (personal wellbeing) for the military sample. Given the findings, it is recommended that routine screening tools identifying problem gambling are used within the military, and subsequent resilience focused interventions are offered to at risk personnel.

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The Global Health & Wellbeing 2015 Survey was commissioned by the Movember Foundation and conducted by the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre and the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre (Young and Well CRC: 2011–2016). We would like to acknowledge the respondents who consented to participate online in the Global Health & Wellbeing 2015 Survey; the international consortia for the Global Health & Wellbeing 2015 Survey including Professor Sagar Parikh, Professor Richard Porter, Professor Jan Scott and Dr Michael Rovito; the Movember Foundation (Australia) lead on the project Therese Fitzpatrick; and the Brain and Mind Centre team: Victoria Baldwin, Lisa Whittle, Django White, Laura Ospina Pinillos, Sarah Piper and Frank Iorfino.


This research was commissioned by the Movember Foundation.

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Correspondence to A. C. Milton.

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Professor Ian Hickie was an inaugural Commissioner on Australia’s National Mental Health Commission (2012–2018). He is the Co-Director, Health and Policy at the Brain and Mind Centre (BMC) University of Sydney. The BMC operates an early-intervention youth services at Camperdown under contract to headspace. Professor Hickie has previously led community-based and pharmaceutical industry-supported (Wyeth, Eli Lily, Servier, Pfizer, AstraZeneca) projects focused on the identification and better management of anxiety and depression. He was a member of the Medical Advisory Panel for Medibank Private until October 2017, a Board Member of Psychosis Australia Trust and a member of Veterans Mental Health Clinical Reference group. He is the Chief Scientific Advisor to, and an equity shareholder in, Innowell. Innowell has been formed by the University of Sydney and PwC to deliver the $30 m Australian Government-funded ‘Project Synergy’. Project Synergy is a 3 year program for the transformation of mental health services through the use of innovative technologies. Professor Jane Burns is Chair of the National Advisory Council for Open Arms, Veterans and Families Counselling Service. She is a wellbeing and digital health consultant to Bupa, a member of the Veterans Mental Health Clinical Reference group and a Chief Investigator and author of the Defence and Veterans Transition and Wellbeing Study. She is the Founder of, and an equity shareholder in, Innowell. She is Professor of Social Innovation and Chair of the Centre for Mental Health at Swinburne University and Adjunct Professor of Social Impact and Entrepreneurship at RMIT. The other authors have nothing to disclose.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Milton, A.C., La Monica, H., Dowling, M. et al. Gambling and the Role of Resilience in an International Online Sample of Current and Ex-serving Military Personnel as Compared to the General Population. J Gambl Stud 36, 477–498 (2020).

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