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900,000 people in Japan may have excessive pachinko playing disorder: survey

This April 29, 2016 file photo shows a pachinko parlor in Kyoto. (Mainichi)

An estimated total of 900,000 people may be hooked on pachinko and pachinko slot (pachislot) machines to the extent of having a "playing disorder," a national survey has found.

The survey, released on Aug. 24, was conducted by a pachinko addiction research body comprising researchers, psychiatrists and a working group from Ochanomizu University, and was the first such investigation of its kind.

"We need to implement social countermeasures," commented Japan Women's University sociology professor emeritus Nobuo Makino, a member of the group.

The group sent 9,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 79 who were selected by random sampling a questionnaire between January and February of this year, and had 5,060 surveys returned for a 56.2 percent response rate.

Forty-seven people said they had symptoms suspected to be caused by a pachinko or pachislot "playing disorder," which had interfered with their mental health, household finances, work, relationships or other parts of their life in the past. Extrapolating the results to the national population suggests as many as 900,000 people could be afflicted.

Twenty-one of the respondents had experienced issues within the last year, which translates to an estimate of roughly 400,000 people nationwide. When the characteristics of those 21 people were analyzed, the group found that many of them had been divorced or had no savings. On the other hand, there was no link found between addiction and sex, age, education, occupation, place of residence or distance from pachinko or pachislot locations.

The group independently developed the Pachinko-Pachislot Playing Disorder Scale (PPDS), which lists and quantifies 27 symptoms, conceptions and actions that may appear in daily life. If a person scored above a certain level on the scale, they were determined to possibly have a playing disorder, and a medical examination was performed as part of the investigation.

Gambling addictions in horseracing, bicycle racing, motorboat racing and other such activities are considered behavioral disorders that are classified as one type of mental illness. While a different scale was used, a 2013 survey conducted by a Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare research group found that 4.8 percent of the adult population was thought to have a gambling addiction -- an estimated 5.36 million people.

"I hope we can pinpoint the causes, and start considering ways to prevent and treat the disorder," said Makino.

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