Letter: Danger: Lottery is bad for you

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The Independent Online
From Dr J. Ilangaratne

Sir: Your coverage ("The loser, the winner, the addiction", 12 April) of the joys and perils of national lottery gamblers was a timely health warning to the growing number of unrealistic punters who may need considerable help to control their compulsive behaviour. Indeed, a condition provisionally named "Lottery Stress Disorder" has already been reported in the British Medical Journal of 1 April - its author, Robert Hunter, states patients have presented with intense anticipatory anxiety, which has built throughout the week to reach a peak in the early evening on Saturday. This is often accompanied by unrealistic optimism and grandiose ideas.

Some people, on the basis of their false belief, make extraordinary and often comprehensive spending plans but at peak intensity on Saturday evenings these features give way to rapid deflation of mood and feelings of hopelessness. Relief is often sought through excess alcohol. The good news is that recovery begins to set in at the start of the following week, but characteristically the pattern repeats itself.

The lottery-related tragic death of a Liverpool man is an extreme example of this newly identified stress disorder. When so much is talked about the health of the nation, the Government has a duty to investigate the serious health hazards of the lottery before we hear more tragic stories. Nevertheless, the lottery will continue to bring the "feel-good factor" to a relatively small number of people once a week.

Yours faithfully,

J. ILANGARATNE

Walkington, Humberside

13 April

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