Being a student can be incredibly expensive. You’ve got to pay for accommodation, shopping, food and a host of other expenses. For those who’re living away from home for the first time, this can be a pretty big shock to the system, which is why it’s unsurprising that some students perhaps don’t manage their money as well as they could do.

One way that some students are looking to ease the financial challenge of university, unfortunately, is by gambling. The Young Gamers & Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM) recently conducted a study of 2,000 students currently at university, and found that almost half of the 2,000 surveyed (47%) have gambled within the last 12 months.

Whilst the majority of those who gambled (75%) were classed as ‘non-problem gamblers’ by YGAM, meaning that their gambling wasn’t causing them to lose large amounts of money or affecting their mental health, this still left a quarter of those students who gambled within the last 12 months being classed as low risk (8%), moderate risk (8%) or problem gamblers (8%).  

This means that a quarter of all student gamblers are at some degree of risk due to their gambling habits, with one in six being at some degree of risk and one in 12 being problem gamblers, totaling 88,000 potential problem gamblers currently at university in the UK.

Why gamble?

YGAM’s research points to the idea that some students may be gambling specifically because they haven’t got enough, rather than just for enjoyment. Of the students who’ve gambled in the last 12 months, nearly three fifths of those surveyed (59%) said that they’re always worrying about their financial situation, and a further 16% said they’ve have gambled more than they can afford.

 It’s understandable, therefore, that those who’re worrying about their finances may view gambling as a quick way out of financial hardship at university without having to ask for help. As you can imagine with gambling, however, there’s always more losers than winners, which explains why so many students admitted to gambling more than they could afford to.

Considering that student life can be expensive as it is, especially for those whom receive smaller loans and grants or don’t receive any financial help from their parents, gambling what money they do receive in their student loans is a worrying problem. With more and more students going to university every year, the amount of problem gamblers is likely to increase from 88,000, and as a result more students are likely to be gambling to an extent that causes them financial harm.

Gambling’s effect on student mental health

A trait of both moderate risk and problem gamblers is gambling to cheer themselves up when they’re feeling low. Of those who do gamble to make themselves feel good, over one in five don’t think they’ll be able to fulfil their academic goals at university, and just under one in five have a negative perception of their overall academic performance.

This means that gambling (or losing money from gambling) could be having an effect on students’ well-being and academic performance as well as their bank balances. YGAM’s research further proves this point – their studies showed that students who didn’t gamble to cheer themselves up had a significantly lower concern about their academic performance than those who did.

Another interesting finding from YGAM’s research was the prominence of negative emotions in problem and moderate risk gamblers. More than half of all the students felt excited when they won and disappointed when they lost (which is pretty normal) whereas those who were classed as moderate risk or problem gamblers were more likely to feel angry, impatient, ashamed or frustrated. 9 in 10 problem and moderate-risk gamblers said they felt guilty about their gambling, and 56% of students in this group said that they have seriously considered dropping out of university altogether.

What can students do to get help?

Having a gambling problem or money worries as a student can be scary, but the good news is that there’s plenty of help available. If you’re worried about the amount of time or money you’re spending on gambling, or know someone else who is, you can speak to one of YGAM’s advisers for free by calling 0800 8020 133.

For free, confidential debt advice, you can speak to one of our own advisers by calling 0800 316 1833 . Our opening hours are 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, and 9am to 3pm on Saturdays.