A new study by Swansea University and the RAF Benevolent Fund has been published, exploring wellbeing issues among serving RAF personnel, with a key focus on problem gambling, alcohol use and mental health.
The study is the first of its kind and involved a survey of more than 2,000 serving members of the RAF, 2% of whom were found to be affected by problem gambling.
Despite affecting a minority of the serving RAF community, the survey indicates that RAF personnel are more likely to experience gambling problems than the general population.
The study found that a further 13.7% of personnel indicate some degree of risk in relation to gambling (9.8% low risk, 3.9% moderate risk) and, with the recent Armed Forces Veterans' Health and Gambling Study highlighting UK veterans are significantly more likely to experience problem gambling, the question arises, what more can be done to support RAF personnel to prevent future problems.
The research, conducted by Dr Amy Pritchard from Swansea University's School of Psychology, also showed gambling problems interlinked with broader wellbeing issues such as alcohol use and mental health.
Individuals who consume alcohol at hazardous levels are twice as likely to be involved in at-risk gambling, while those with moderate to severe depression are five times more likely to report having a gambling problem.
Risk factors for problem gambling in the RAF included being male, aged 18-24, and of non-commissioned rank.
Professor Simon Dymond, also from the School of Psychology and principal investigator on the study, said:
"This internationally significant, large-scale study shows, for the first time, that serving members of the RAF are vulnerable to gambling-related harm.
"It is important that we follow up this finding with targeted help and support, including the early identification of potential harms that arise from gambling among currently serving personnel from all services."
The RAF Benevolent Fund provided key recommendations in the report, including:
• increasing awareness among serving personnel;
• screening, particularly among those with risk factors;
• training for health professionals and line managers;
• providing education and low-intensity behaviour change strategies for those at risk of developing gambling problems.
Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, Controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said:
"We are committed to providing the serving RAF community with appropriate support, and this research will help inform our emotional wellbeing services moving forwards."
The study report was launched during a presentation and panel discussion available to view on the RAF Benevolent Fund YouTube channel and the findings have been peer-reviewed and published, open-access, in Addictive Behaviours.