A nation of gamblers: NHS report reveals four in 10 adults went to casinos or ...

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Experts have warned England is heading full-speed towards a gambling epidemic after it was revealed four in ten adults placed a bet in the last year. 

NHS Digital data showed 39 per cent of over-16s gambled in 2018, with this number climbing to more than half (53 per cent) if playing the National Lottery was included.

The rise of mobile betting was partly blamed for putting constant temptation in the pockets of virtually everyone in the country. 

Middle-aged adults were the most likely to gamble, with two-thirds of 45 to 54-year-olds admitting to spending money with a bookmaker in the last 12 months.

NHS Digital data showed 39 per cent of over-16s gambled in 2018. The rise of mobile betting was partly blamed for putting constant temptation in the pockets of virtually everyone in the country (stock)

NHS Digital data showed 39 per cent of over-16s gambled in 2018. The rise of mobile betting was partly blamed for putting constant temptation in the pockets of virtually everyone in the country (stock)

Official NHS data breaks down participation in gambling activities in the last 12 months by age

Official NHS data breaks down participation in gambling activities in the last 12 months by age

But online gambling has enticed younger audiences, the Health Survey for England (HSE) of 8,178 adults showed.

More than two-thirds of people aged 16 to 34 placed a bet over the internet in 2018 - compared with less than 5 per cent of those aged 65 and over.

Ian Hamilton, an addictions lecturer at the University of York, told MailOnline: 'It is really worrying to see this rise in gambling activity.

'This hasn't happened by accident as we have so many more opportunities to gamble than we did a few years ago, from the lottery to online poker and bingo.

'[Mobile apps] are designed not just to get your attention but, like slot machines, make you think that a win is imminent.

'Like any app they are on your phone so can be accessed anywhere, anytime, you don't need to wait for the bookies to open.'

The HSE report revealed that among men, the highest proportions were in the 25 to 34 age group – 64 per cent of who gambled in 2018.

For women, those in the 45 to 64 age group were most likely to bet at 57 per cent.

Middle-aged adults were the most likely to gamble, with two-thirds of 45 to 54-year-olds admitting to spending money with a bookmaker in the last 12 months. (file)

Middle-aged adults were the most likely to gamble, with two-thirds of 45 to 54-year-olds admitting to spending money with a bookmaker in the last 12 months. (file)

Official NHS data breaks down participation in gambling activities in the last 12 months by age and sex

Official NHS data breaks down participation in gambling activities in the last 12 months by age and sex

HOW GAMBLERS' BRAINS RESEMBLE DRUG ADDICTS' 

Compulsive gamblers seek games of chance because they have similar brain activity to drink and drug addicts, scientists found in 2017.

Researchers at Imperial College London identified two brain areas which were highly active when gamblers felt the urge to make a bet or spin the roulette wheel.

Both regions, known as the insula and nucleus accumbens, are involved in decision-making, reward sensations and impulse control – and they have previously been linked to alcohol and drug cravings.

The findings, reported in the journal Translational Psychiatry, could lead to new treatments for gambling addiction, the researchers said at the time.

Co-author of the study, Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones said at the time: 'We know the condition may have a genetic component – and that the children of gambling addicts are at higher risk of gambling addiction themselves – but we still don't know the exact parts of the brain involved. 

'This research identifies key brain areas, and opens avenues for targeted treatments that prevent cravings and relapse.'

The scientists used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of 19 people with gambling addiction and the same number of healthy volunteers.

Brain activity was monitored while each participant was asked to view a selection of images that included a roulette wheel and betting shop.

In problem gamblers, the insula and nucleus accumbens brain regions were found to be highly active when seeing a gambling image was accompanied by craving.

A link was also seen with the

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