Research has uncovered an overseas student gambling problem in Australia especially amongst female students who seem more likely to develop a problem gambling habit.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald reports on research in the latest edition of the Journal of Gambling Studies comparing gambling rates among local and international students. Some of the results are worrying.
Researchers at Swinburne, Bond and Deakin universities surveyed 832 local students (286 males and 546 females), and 765 international students (369 males and 396 females) at three Australian universities. Two were in Victoria and one in Queensland.
The study’s findings conclude that although most university students don’t gamble often, about 5 per cent of those who do are problem gamblers. The figure is higher than for the rest of the population.
The most alarming figure is for male international students, almost 10 per cent of whom can be classified as problem gamblers. Their rate of gambling is more than twice that for female local and international students, and higher than male local students.
It’s a story about international students that we rarely hear about.
The study also concludes that female international students display higher rates of problem gambling than local students.
The researchers conclude that being an international student is a “significant” and “independent risk factor” for problem gambling.
“In other words, although international students gambled less frequently than domestic students, they were more likely to be vulnerable to problems when they did gamble.”
Why are there significant numbers of problem gamblers among international students?
It appears that being in Australia prompts many international students to bet.
The study shows that 59 per cent of international students who said they did not gamble before arriving in Australia reported gambling at least once in the past 12 months in Australia.
“While some of this change is likely to relate to factors such as reaching the legal age for gambling, it is feasible that increased accessibility may also have a role here,” the researchers say.
A high number of international students are from Asian countries where gambling is much more restricted than in Australia. Once overseas students arrive here they have many betting options.
The study shows that the most popular forms of betting for both local and international students are cards, sports betting, casino games and buying lottery or scratch-it tickets. Local students also like to bet on horse and dog races.
The study also says that international students are more at risk of problem gambling because of higher stress levels.
“International students reported higher levels of relationship stress, financial stress and socio-cultural adaptation stress, as well as more anxiety and depression than domestic students,” the researchers write.
“This is consistent with prior research indicating that international students have less social support, use less functional coping strategies, have more difficulty adjusting, and are more stressed than local students.”
What can be done to help problem gamblers?
Anna Thomas, one the study’s authors, told Third Degree that education programs can help prevent gambling problems from escalating.
Dr Thomas, an adjunct research fellow at Swinburne’s Brain and Psychological Sciences Research Centre, says if students learn the signs of problem gambling, they may be able to recognise them in their friends. This could prompt them to seek help.
Dr Thomas, also a senior research fellow at the Australian Gambling Centre, says students often go to family and friends if they are worried about their gambling.
However, many international students are reluctant to go to their families for help because they may be using family money to gamble instead of for their fees.
Dr Thomas says universities may only become aware that an international student has a gambling problem when their university fees don’t get paid.
Some universities, such as the Australian National University, have material about the warning signs of problem gambling on their counselling websites.
Last year, 323,612 international students were studying in Australia and 934,110 domestic students.