Impacts of gambling problems on partners: partners’ interpretations

Partners can be especially vulnerable to the negative effects of gambling problems, but little research has sought to understand partners’ experiences from their own unique perspectives. This qualitative interpretive study explored the impacts of gambling problems on partners. In-depth interviews were conducted with 18 partners and ex-partners of people with gambling problems to understand their experiences of gambling problems from their perspectives. The findings showed that partners experienced a wide range of negative effects, especially on their financial security, their emotional, mental and physical health, and on their relationships. The financial impacts of gambling problems on partners were substantial and far-reaching. Some partners were forced to take up extra employment to cover household expenses and pay off gambling-related debts. Others lost their savings, homes, belongings and established ways of life. While these impacts were extensive, partners also experienced a range of emotional impacts that were equally devastating. Their gambling partner’s lies, dishonesty and concealment of problems and gambling behaviour created considerable distress, loss of trust and a sense of betrayal. These experiences undermined these partners’ sense of self-identity, and created additional conflicts within their relationships. Along with accumulating mental and physical health impacts, these challenges lead to separation and/or divorce for many participants. These findings point to the need for greater understanding of partners’ experiences and public health initiatives that protect partners and their families from the harmful effects of gambling problems.

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