Gambling with their Lives: Suicide and Bankruptcy among Japanese Gamblers

In a country known for its self-control and adherence to tradition, gambling has become a cause for concern. Gambling addiction affects up to 5.3% of people in any given country, and has serious social, physical and mental health effects. These include mental health problems, impaired functioning, reduced quality of life, financial risks and even suicide. A new study conducted in Japan has produced data exploring the relationship between suicide and other factors in gamblers.

Gambling with their Lives Suicide and Bankruptcy among Japanese Gamblers

If you visit a video game arcade in Japan, you will find all the high-tech diversions you encounter in any other country: racing games, fighting games and an assortment of brightly lit screens. But in addition to these, you will also find a particularly Japanese invention: “Pachinko”.

A hybrid somewhere between a slot-machine and a pinball machine, players buy tokens to play. During the game, balls are accumulated, which are in turn exchanged for prizes. While gambling for cash is technically illegal in Japan, many arcades have nearby exchange centres where players can exchange their tokens for money.

In a country known for its self-control and adherence to tradition, gambling has become a cause for concern. Gambling addiction affects up to 5.3% of people in any given country, and has serious social, physical and mental health effects. These include mental health problems, impaired functioning, reduced quality of life, financial risks and even suicide. A new study conducted in Japan has produced data exploring the relationship between suicidality and other factors in gamblers.

The study was conducted with 141 outpatients diagnosed with pathological gambling in a psychiatric treatment facility. The average age of participants was 45 years; almost 90% were male and about 60% were married. The researchers collected a range of data, including demographic information, family history, medical history, history of bankruptcy, and social factors.

The results indicated that the primary gambling activity among participants was playing slot- machines or Pachinko (89%). Approximately 10% of those in the study reported declaring bankruptcy, and 12% had attempted suicide. The researchers found that the following variables were correlated with attempted suicide: female gender, family history of addiction, and unemployment. As for bankruptcy, the following factors were found to be positively correlated: female gender, family history of addiction, unemployment, and being unmarried.

For both bankruptcy and attempted suicide, family history of addiction was the most predictive variable. The researchers concluded that due to this relationship, it is important to assess family history in order to reduce risk of suicide among patients. Furthermore, when treatment is conducted, it is recommended that the influence of family on the individual be understood. This will help to ensure that those with gambling addictions develop more adaptive coping strategies than those learned in their families, thereby reducing risk of suicide.

Finally, the authors of the study recommend an understanding of culture when treating addiction. In the case of people with gambling addictions in Japan, understanding cultural attitudes toward gambling can be helpful in understanding the causes and social factors which influence the behaviour. Slot-machines and Pachinko games are widely available and do not carry untoward stigma; as a result, Japan has been cited as a culture with above average rates of addiction. Successful treatment therefore needs to account for the widespread availability of gambling outlets and the triggers which incite gambling behaviour.

The Cabin Chiang Mai, a world-class addiction treatment centre, specialises in treatment of clients who are otherwise successful in their lives. If you are struggling with this or any other addiction, please contact one of our team today for a consultation.