University students are considered an at-risk group for gambling problems, for various reasons. For many students, this is the first time ever to experience living alone, and many have moved far away from their support network of family, friends, and relatives.
If you are a university student, we wish to encourage you to look after yourself and be aware of warning signs of problematic gambling. Also, keep an eye on your school friends, and don’t be shy about discussing the subject.
If you are worried about your gambling habits, contact the Student Health Services at the university.
Dealing with stress
University can be a stressful environment, and for some students, gambling becomes a way of dealing with that stress. We arrive at university filled with a mixture of ambition and self-doubt, and the next few years can be a roller-coaster of emotions.
If a student’s school results are dropping, gambling can be a welcome distraction from the associated anxiety. Spending too much time gambling can make school results drop even further, and a bad downward spiral is created.
For many students, going to university can pose a social challenge. We leave our old friends behind and it can take quite some time before we make new ones – especially new close friends and not just party pals. The pressure to find ones place socially can be stressful, especially coupled with all the ideas about how life at university should be. To cope with this social stress, some students take to gambling.
Compared to high school, a university student tends to have more free time – or rather, more unscheduled time away from school that is intended to be used for studying, part-time work and/or participation in extra curricular activities. For some, handling this new responsibility can be daunting, and many hours will be wasted on time-killing procrastination such as gambling.
For some students, the transition from high school to university is rather straight forward, because they grew up in an environment where they were gradually encouraged to take more and more responsibility for their own economy as they moved through their teenage years. They had a part-time job, they saved up for holidays, maybe they were responsible for car payments, and so on. For others, the change is way too abrupt. They go from having a weekly allowance and parents that take care of everything for them, to suddenly being expected to manage much larger sums of money from scholarships and/or student loans. This can contribute to reckless spending, including reckless gambling.
The internet has made gambling accessable everywhere. You no longer need to go to university in a town with a casino, join the school’s secret poker club or frequent nightclubs with blackjack tables to be able to engage in rapid gambling. This means that many students who would previously have had very little exposure to “tempting environments” now might take up gambling from the privacy of their own student dorms and appartments.