An Overview of Help Seeking by Problem Gamblers and their Families Including Barriers to and Relevance of Services

  • Dave Clarke
  • Max Abbott
  • Ruth DeSouza
  • Maria Bellringer


Research demonstrates that gambling support services often do not meet the needs of people seeking help for their gambling problems. In particular, the needs of cultural groups, and gender-specific needs of men and women are neglected. Understanding differences in help seeking behaviour can assist in developing early interventions to address gambling related problems and in developing effective strategies. This paper reviews the literature on help seeking by problem gamblers and their families, including barriers to and relevance of services through a gender and cultural lens. Research findings from international and New Zealand studies are examined, highlighting ways in which gender and culturally appropriate strategies can be implemented. Ways of changing barriers and social policies are proposed which may improve the responsiveness of services. Ultimately it may encourage health care access and utilisation for people and their families seeking help for problem gambling.


Gambling problems Families New Zealand 



The research on which this paper is based was funded by a grant from the New Zealand Ministry of Health (MOH: 467589/303177/00).


  1. Abbott, M. W. (2001a). Problem and non-problem gamblers in New Zealand. Report on phase two of the national prevalence study. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs.Google Scholar
  2. Abbott, M. W. (2001b). What do we know about gambling and problem gambling in New Zealand? Report number seven of the New Zealand Gaming Survey. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs.Google Scholar
  3. Abbott, M. W. (2006). Do EGMs and problem gambling go together like a horse and carriage? Gambling Research, 18(1), 7–38.Google Scholar
  4. Abbott, M. W., & McKenna, B. (2000). Gambling and problem gambling among recently sentenced women prisoners in New Zealand. Report number four of the New Zealand Gaming Survey. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs.Google Scholar
  5. Abbott, M. W., McKenna, B. G., & Giles, L. C. (2000). Gambling and problem gambling among recently sentenced males in four New Zealand prisons. Report number five of the New Zealand Gaming Survey. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs.Google Scholar
  6. Abbott, M. W., & Volberg, R. A. (1992). Frequent and problem gambling in New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs.Google Scholar
  7. Abbott, M. W., & Volberg, R. A. (1996). The New Zealand National Survey of Problem and Pathological Gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 12(2), 143–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Abbott, M. W., Volberg, R., Bellringer, M., & Reith, G. (2004). A review of research on aspects of problem gambling: Final report. London: Responsibility in Gambling Trust.Google Scholar
  9. Abbott, M. W., Williams, M., & Volberg, R. (1999a). Seven years on: A follow-up study of frequent and problem gamblers living in the community. Report number two of the New Zealand Gaming Survey. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs.Google Scholar
  10. Abbott, M. W., Wong, S., Williams, M. M., Au, M. K., & Young, W. (1999b). Chinese migrants mental health and adjustment to life in New Zealand. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 33(1), 13–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Barney, L. J., Griffiths, K. M., Jorm, A. F., & Christensen, H. (2006). Stigma about depression and its impact on help-seeking intentions. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 40(1), 51–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bellringer, M. E., Perese, L. M., Abbott, M. W., & Williams, M. M. (2006). Gambling amongst Pacific mothers living in New Zealand. International Gambling Studies, 6(2), 217–235.Google Scholar
  13. Booth, B. M., Kirchner, J., Fortney, J., Ross, R., & Rost, K. (2000). Rural at-risk drinkers: Correlates and one-year use of alcoholism treatment services. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61, 267–277.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Brown, K. (2002). Understanding problem gambling in ethnocultural communities: Taking the first steps. Newslink: Responsible Gambling Issues and Information, 1–5.Google Scholar
  15. Bunkle, P. (2003). The changing participation of women in gambling in New Zealand. Retrieved August 25, 2006, from
  16. Cheung, Y. W. (1993). Approaches to ethnicity: Clearing roadblocks in the study of ethnicity and substance use. The International Journal of the Addictions, 28(12), 1209–1226.Google Scholar
  17. Clarke, D. (2006). Intrinsic and extrinsic barriers to health care: Implications for problem gambling. Paper presented at the 2006 International Conference on Gambling. Gambling and its impacts: Policy, practice and research perspectives. New Zealand: Auckland University of Technology.Google Scholar
  18. Cowan, L., Deering, D., Crowe, M., Sellman, D., Futterman-Collier, A., & Adamson, S. (2003). Alcohol and drug treatment for women: Clinicians’ beliefs and practice. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 12(1), 48–55.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Crisp, B. R., Thomas, S. A., Jackson, A. C., Thomason, N., Smith, S., Borrell, J., et al. (2000). Sex differences in the treatment needs and outcomes of problem gamblers. Research on Social Work Practice, 10(2), 229–242.Google Scholar
  20. Cunningham, J. A., Humphreys, K., & Koski-Jannes, A. (2000). Providing personalized assessment feedback for problem drinking on the Internet: A pilot project. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61, 794–798.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Cunningham, J. A., Sobell, L. C., Sobell, M. B., Agrawal, S., & Toneatto, T. (1993). Barriers to treatment: Why alcohol and drug abusers delay or never seek treatment. Addictive Behaviors, 18, 347–353.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Davis, D. R., & Avery, L. (2004). Women who have taken their lives back from compulsive gambling: Results from an online survey. Journal of Social Work Practice, 4(1), 61–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. de Bonnaire, C., Fryer, K., Kalafatelis, E., & Whitfield, J. (2000). Youth and alcohol: Benchmark survey of parental concern (No. BRC #2012). Wellington, New Zealand: Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand.Google Scholar
  24. de Zwart, K. M., Sellman, J. D., & Robertson, P. J. (2002). Public knowledge and attitudes regarding smoking and smoking cessation treatments. New Zealand Medical Journal, 115(1153), 219–222.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Delfabbro, P. H. (1998). Gender differences in Australian gambling: A critical review of existing findings and methodological critique. Paper presented at the National Association for Gambling Studies. Adelaide, SA.Google Scholar
  26. Delfabbro, P. H., & LeCouteur, A. (2003). A decade of gambling research in Australia and New Zealand (1992–2002): Implications for policy, regulation and harm minimisation. Adelaide, SA: Independent Gambling Authority of South Australia.Google Scholar
  27. DeSouza, R. (2006). Sailing in a new direction: Multicultural mental health in New Zealand. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, 5(2), 11 pp.Google Scholar
  28. DeSouza, R., & Garrett, N. (2005). Access issues for Chinese people in New Zealand: Final report for the Accident Compensation Corporation. Auckland, New Zealand: Centre for Asian and Migrant Health Research, National Institute for Public Health and Mental Health Research, Auckland University of Technology, 82 pp.Google Scholar
  29. DiMatteo, M. R. (1997). Health behaviors and care decisions: An overview of professional-patient communication. In D. S. Gochman (Ed.), Handbook of health behavior research II: Provider determinants. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  30. Dixon, G., Stanton, W. R., McGee, R. O., Langley, J. D., & Murdoch, J. C. (1995). Disability in late adolescence III: Utilization of health services. Disability and Rehabilitation, 17(5), 225–230.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Duong-Ohtsuka, T., & Ohtsuka, K. (2001). Differences in attitudes towards psychological help among Vietnamese- and Australian-born respondents. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 11th National Conference of the National Association for Gambling Studies, Alphington, Vic, Australia.Google Scholar
  32. Dyall, L. (2003). Why is wearing glasses useful in New Zealand? Paper presented at the international conference: Gambling through a public health lens, held in Auckland September 2003. Journal of Gambling Issues, 12, Retrieved August 25, 2006 from
  33. 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.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Fuller, J., Edwards, J., Procter, N., & Moss, J. (2000). How definititon of mental health problems can influence help seeking in rurual and remote communities. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 8(3), 148–153.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Goldberg, M. E. (1995). Substance-abusing women: False stereotypes and real needs. Social Work, 40(6), 789–798.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Goodyear-Smith, F., Arroll, B., Kerse, N., Sullivan, S., Coupe, N., Tse, S., et al. (2006). Primary care patients reporting concerns about their gambling frequently have other co-occurring lifestyle and mental health issues. BMC Family Practice, 7(25), Retrieved August 25, 2006, from
  37. Grant, B. (1997). Barriers to alcoholism treatment: Reasons for not seeking treatment in a general population sample. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 58, 365–371.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Hajema, K. J., Knibbe, R. A., & Drop, M. J. (1999). Social resources and alcohol-related losses as predictors of help seeking among male problem drinkers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 69(1), 120–129.Google Scholar
  39. Hill, W., Weinert, C., & Cudney, S. (2006). Influence of a computer intervention on the psychological status of chronically ill rural women: Preliminary results. Nursing Research, 55(1), 34–42.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hodgetts, D., & Chamberlain, K. (2002). “The problem with men”: Working-class men making sense of men’s health on television. Journal of Health Psychology, 7(3), 269–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hodgins, D. C., & El-Guebaly, N. (2000). Natural and treatment-assisted recovery from gambling problems: A comparison of resolved and active gamblers. Addiction, 95(5), 777–789.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Humphreys, K., & Klaw, E. (2001). Can targeting nondependent problem drinkers and providing internet-based services expand access to assistance for alcohol problems? A study of the moderation management self-help/mutual aid organization. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 62, 528–532.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Kessler, R. C., Olfson, M., & Berglund, P. A. (1998). Patterns and predictors of tretament contact after first onset of psychiatry disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 155, 62–69.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Kwok, S. M. (2000). Exploring the experiences of Chinese in drugs treatment programs in Vancouver. British Journal of Social Work, 30, 633–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lane, J. M., & Addis, M. E. (2005). Male gender role conflict and patterns of help seeking in Costa Rica and the United States. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 6(3), 155–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mark, M. E., & Lesieur, H. R. (1992). A feminist critique of problem gambling research. British Journal of Addiction, 87(4), 549–565.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Marks, I. (2005). The mental health professional and the new technologies: A handbook for practice today. British Journal of Psychiatry, 186(6), 545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Marsh, J. C., D’Aunno, T. A., & Smith, B. D. (2000). Increasing access and providing social services to improve drug abuse treatment for women with children. Addiction, 95(8), 1237–1247.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 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. Retrieved May 26, 2006, from
  50. Ministry of Health, & Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs (2004). Tou ola moui: The Pacific health chart book 2004. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Health.Google Scholar
  51. Ministry of Health (2005a). Problem gambling intervention services in New Zealand 2004 national statistics. Retrieved May 26, 2006, from$File/problemgambling-nationalstatistics2004.pdf
  52. Ministry of Health. (2005b). Te orau ora—Pacific mental health profile. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Health.Google Scholar
  53. Ministry of Health (2006). Problem gambling intervention services in New Zealand: 2005 service-user statistics. Wellington: Ministry of Health.Google Scholar
  54. Morrison, L. (2003). Pokie gambling and Maori women: Friend or foe? Paper presented at the international conference: Gambling through a public health lens. Journal of Gambling Issues, 12, Retrieved August 25, 2006 from
  55. Niagara Multilingual Problem Gambling Program. (undated). Problem gambling and ethno-cultural groups. Retrieved July 7, 2006, from
  56. Paton-Simpson, G., & Gruys, M. (2002). Problem gambling counselling in New Zealand: 2001 national statistics. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs.Google Scholar
  57. Paton-Simpson, G., & Gruys, M. (2003). Problem gambling counselling in New Zealand: 2002 national statistics. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs.Google Scholar
  58. Perese, L., & Faleafa, M. (2000). The impact of gambling on some Samoan peoples’ lives in Auckland. Auckland, New Zealand: Compulsive Gambling Society of New Zealand.Google Scholar
  59. Pescosolido, B. A., Gardner, C. B., & Kubell, K. M. (1998). How people get into mental health services: Stories of choice, coercion and “muddling through” from “first-timers”. Social Science and Medicine, 46(2), 275–286.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Potenza, M. N., Steinberg, M. A., McLaughlin, S. D., Wu, R., Rounsaville, B. J., & O’Malley, S. S. (2001). Gender-related differences in the characteristics of problem gamblers using a gambling helpline. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158, 1500–1505.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Prochaska, J. O., DiClemente, C. G., & Norcross, J. C. (1992). In search of how people change: Applications to addictive behaviors. American Psychologist, 47, 1102–1114.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Productivity Commission (1999). Australia’s gambling industries: Inquiry report. Melbourne, Vic: Australian Government Productivity Commission.Google Scholar
  63. Rankine, J., & Haigh, D. (2003). Social impacts of gambling in Manukau City. Auckland, New Zealand: Manukau City Council.Google Scholar
  64. Raylu, N., & Oei, T. P. (2004). Role of culture in gambling and problem gambling. Clinical Psychology Review, 23(8), 1087–1114.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rockloff, M. J., & Schofield, G. (2004). Factor analysis of barriers to treatment for problem gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 20(2), 121–126.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Rothi, D. M., & Leavey, G. (2006). Mental health help-seeking and young people: A review. Pastoral Care in Education, 24(3), 4–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schopp, L. H., Demiris, G., & Glueckauf, R. L. (2006). Rural backwaters or front-runners? Rural telehealth in the vanguard of psychology practice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 37(2), 165–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Scragg, R., & Maitra, A. (2005). Asian health in Aotearoa: An analysis of the 2002–2003 New Zealand health survey. Auckland, New Zealand: The Asian Network Incorporated.Google Scholar
  69. Scull, S., & Woolcock, G. (2005). Problem gambling in non-English speaking background communities in Queensland, Australia: A qualitative exploration. International Gambling Studies, 5(1), 29–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sullivan, S., Arroll, B., Coster, G., Abbott, M. W., & Adams, P. (2000). Problem gamblers: Do GPs want to intervene? New Zealand Medical Journal, 113, 204–207.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. Thomas, D. R. (2006). Evaluating the cultural appropriateness of service delivery in multi-ethnic communities. In N. Kazantzis (Ed.), Community of Applied Psychologists Paper Series 1 (pp. 65–74). Auckland, New Zealand: Centre for Psychology, Massey University.Google Scholar
  72. Todd, F. C., Sellman, J. D., & Robertson, P. J. (2002). Barriers to optimal care for patients with coexisting substance use and mental health disorders. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 36(6), 792–799.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Tse, S., Wong, J., & Kim, H. (2003). A public health approach for Asian people with problem gambling in foreign countries. Journal of Gambling Issues, 12, Retrieved December 1, 2005 from
  74. Volberg, R. A. (2003). Has there been a “feminization” of gambling and problem gambling in the United States? Retrieved May 26, 2006, from
  75. Wagner, J., Heapy, A., Frantsve, L., Abbott, G., & Burg, M. M. (2006). Transtheoretical model constructs in smokers with and without medical illness: A second look at the medical effect. Addictive Behaviors, 31(7), 1283–1289.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Welte, J. W., Barnes, G. M., Wieczorek, W. F., Tidwell, M.-C. O., & Parker, J. C. (2001). Alcohol and gambling pathology among U.S. adults: Prevalence, demographic patterns and comorbidity. Journal of Alcohol Studies, 62(5), 706–712.Google Scholar
  77. Westphal, J. R., & Johnson, L. J. (2003). Gender differences in psychiatric comorbidity and treatment-seeking among gamblers in treatment. eGambling: The Electronic Journal of Gambling Issues, 8, Retrieved May 26, 2005 from
  78. Wu, L. T., & Ringwalt, C. L. (2004). Alcohol dependence and use of treatment services among women in the community. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161, 1790–1797.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Zhu, S.-H., Nguyen, Q. B., Cummins, S., Wong, S., & Wightman, V. (2006). Non-smokers seeking help for smokers: A preliminary study. Tobacco Control, 15, 107–113.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dave Clarke
    • 1
  • Max Abbott
    • 2
  • Ruth DeSouza
    • 2
  • Maria Bellringer
    • 2
  1. 1.School of PsychologyMassey University, Albany CampusNorth ShoreNew Zealand
  2. 2.Gambling Research CentreAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations