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No. of Gambling Addicts Rises Five-fold

Posted September. 13, 2008 08:57,   


A 32-year-old man played the traditional Korean card game go stop with his relatives during holidays.

He first played for small stakes but later moved on to other forms of gambling with higher stakes, such as horse racing. His gambling habit left him heavily in debt.

Trying to quit gambling, he enlisted in the Army, but he was unable to control his addiction even after discharge. He ended up seeking help at a hospital.

A study exclusively obtained by The Dong-A Ilbo yesterday found that the number of people who have sought treatment for compulsive gambling has increased five times over the past eight years.

The National Health Insurance Corp. said the number of gambling addicts rose from 108 in 2000 to 170 in 2002, 216 in 2005, 475 in 2006 and 519 last year.

Compulsive gambling is a mental disorder in which a sufferer cannot control the impulse to gamble, or experiences anxiety or depression when he or she cannot gamble.

By age, the disease afflicts mostly those in their 30s and 40s. The number of 30-something addicts rose from 37 in 2000 to 169 last year, while that of those in their 40s grew from 33 to 151 over the same period.

The number of gambling addicts in their 20s rose 10 times from seven to 74 over the eight-year period.

By sex, the number of male addicts increased from 91 to 481 over the period, while that of female addicts remained steady at 17 in 2000, 21 in 2003 and 38 last year.

Since most addicts do not report their disease, experts say the real number is far greater. More than four percent of the population is believed to have this disorder to a certain degree, more than double the rates of the United States and Europe.

Experts warn of the rising popularity of TV dramas and cartoons with gambling themes, adding many Koreans often ignore the consequences of gambling.

One officer worker said, “In the past, people who gambled were blamed by his or her neighbors, but people now think differently since gambling is beautified in the media including films.”

Shin Yeong-cheol, a psychologist at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, said, “When a person falls victim to gambling, many people including the victim`s relatives and friends are negatively influenced by the sufferer. Compulsive gambling is a serious disease, and we need to stop beautifying gambling and treat this disorder.”