Experts warn of mounting internet gambling addiction among youth
Experts have warned against an increase in internet gambling among youth in Türkiye and around the world given the extensive usage of mobile phones that has soared significantly during the last few years.
Highlighting that the number of betting sites has increased in virtual environments, Dr. Cengiz Soylu, who is a psychiatrist himself, pointed out that the frequency of youngsters using these websites has shot up simultaneously.
"The increase in virtual gambling addiction has caused serious socio-economic and mental problems in Türkiye and across the world. It has turned into an important public health problem, especially among young people," he underscored.
Calling the 21st century a "century of addiction," the health professional explained that "virtual gambling addictions," which are quite prevalent among youth because of easy internet access, have now become easier with the existence of "illegal and virtual casinos."
He went on to add that sports betting games that are easily accessible via the internet are the ones garnering more and more attention from young people in particular. "The fact that these bets can be made, followed and deposited and withdrawn easily over the internet has also increased the risk of addiction,’’ Soylu noted.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the pervasiveness of gambling among adults stands at 3% on average. However, Soylu pointed out that although this problem is more common in men between the ages of 40-50, the average age is gradually decreasing.
"Research conducted by the British Gambling Commission in 2021 revealed that children and young people are at significant risk for gambling disorders,’’ he said, adding that according to the same research, approximately 350 million people worldwide exhibit some sort of problematic gambling behavior every year. Only 10% of them consider the option of receiving medical treatment and even fewer continue their treatments.
Touching upon the reasons that lead people toward gambling, Soylu highlighted that the main reasons include seeking excitement or thrills and the urge to escape from unwanted emotions and thoughts. Socialization is another reason for young people to indulge in such activities.
Addressing pathological gambling addiction as a mental illness, Soylu said that people become completely immersed in gambling and cannot stop themselves despite the negative consequences.
He said that gambling often disrupts daily activities and often becomes the main priority of the person, thus entangling him in a vicious circle that has no end.
‘’This vicious circle leads to many negative consequences, such as serious financial losses, domestic problems, violence and divorce and many other negative psychological consequences such as depression, sleeping disorders and suicide," Soylu explained, stressing that people experiencing such symptoms should immediately seek medical help.