Health

Published: Wednesday August 27, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday September 2, 2014 MYT 5:28:03 PM

Gambling addiction rising in Japan

Japanese adults are five time more addicted to gambling than other countries, says study.

The study that showed nearly 5% of Japanese adults are addicted gambling also showed rising adult addiction to the Internet and alcohol in a society long known for its tolerance of boozing and its love of technology.

“If something new becomes available, addiction will only rise,” says Susumu Higuchi, Japan’s leading expert on addiction who headed the study, to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

The survey, taken last year and sponsored by the health ministry, came as the Japanese government mulls controversial plans to legalise casino gambling in special zones, with some saying it would boost the number of foreign tourists.

Nearly 5% of the adult population are likely pathological gamblers who cannot resist the impulse to wager, says newspaper. – AFP

Low public awareness of the perils of gambling addiction - despite a robust gaming industry – separates Japan from other industrialised nations that are relatively more willing to talk openly about the problem, said a campaigner who has worked on the subject.

Researchers estimated that roughly 5.36 million people in Japan - 4.8% of the adult population - are likely pathological gamblers who cannot resist the impulse to wager, the Yomiuri Shimbun reports.

The study said 8.7% of men and 1.8% of women fit the internationally accepted definition of addicts, reports the Mainichi Shimbun.

The wide availability of pachinko parlours - loud, colourful salons that offer rows of pinball-like games - and other gambling establishments is believed to be contributing to the problem. The ratio of compulsive gamblers in most nations “stands more or less around one percent of the adult population. So Japan’s ratio is high,” a member of the study group tells the Nikkei newspaper.

Gambling is everywhere in Japan, with pachinko halls dotted around train stations and along major roads, attracting many middle-age men, but also women and young people as well. Betting on racing – horses, bicycles, motorbikes and speed boats – is also common, with horse racing featuring on weekend television.

In 2006 Japanese lawmakers were photographed playing roulette during a trial run of a casino hosted by Japan Casino Dealers Association and Casino School in Tokyo. Japanese lawmakers push to legalise casinos, which are currently still illegal in Japan. – AFP

"There is an absolute lack of preventive education for (gambling) addiction," says Noriko Tanaka, head of campaign group Society Concerned about the Gambling Addiction. Japan has allocated insufficient social resources to publicly discuss the problem, while more open efforts are made in the US and Europe, she says. Open discussion of the matter is rare as Japanese people in general shy away from disclosing what can be regarded as family dishonour, Tanaka says. "We are not calling for a ban on gambling and we recognise it has its own economic merits," she says. "But we must also discuss the negative economic and social impacts" of gambling, she adds.

When it comes to Internet addiction, researchers blamed the spread of smartphones and increasing quality of digital content for the rising number of IT addicts, who often prefer the Internet to other essential activities such as sleeping, the Nikkei says.

Around 4.21 million adults are believed to show signs of Internet addiction, the study found, a rate that had risen 50% in five years, the Nikkei reports.

More than a million people are believed to be addicted to alcohol, compared with an estimated 830,000 people a decade ago, the Mainichi says. – AFP

Overcoming addiction

Gambling, like all forms of addiction, often starts off subtly or seemingly benign. The addiction not only has an impact on our wallets but also to the people close to us, namely our families. 

Here is a documentary that talks about gambling addiction and how addicts rationalise their actions. It also debunks myths about gambling "strategies" and "systems". There is a also an interesting segment on how slot machines work. 

Have a watch. 

Tags / Keywords: gambling, addiction, internet addiction, Japan, study, high addiction, boozing

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