Nearly one in five people gambling online have a problem or are at risk, with high numbers of young adults betting, new figures for England suggest.

The first public survey carried out since start of the Covid pandemic sheds light on the proportion of people aged 16 and over who are problem gamblers or engaging in risky gambling behaviour.

The Health Survey for England shows that the proportion of people who have a gambling problem or who are an ‘at-risk’ gambler is 5.8% of those using any form of gambling.

This rises to 7.9% of those doing any gambling excluding the National Lottery and 18.2% of those participating in online gambling, excluding the lottery.

The figures relate to people who gambled in the previous 12 months, as of 2021, and suggests the true prevalence of gambling harm may be higher than previously thought.

A gambling evidence review published by the Government in January, which used pre-Covid Health Survey for England data plus other figures, estimated that 0.5% of adults had a problem with gambling (the same as the latest survey) and 3.8% were gambling at at-risk levels.

Overall, the new data showed that one in 10 adults have gambled online (excluding the National Lottery and other lotteries) during the previous 12 months, and half of all adults have taken part in any form gambling at all.

Some 39% of those aged 16 to 34 said they have gambled in the past year, compared with 53% of those aged 35 to 44, 61% of those aged 45 to 54 and 56% of those aged 55 to 64.

Among people aged 65 to 74, some 53% have gambled, while the figure is 45% of those aged 75 and over.

Among 16 to 34-year-olds, 18% have made a bet (the highest for any age group), followed by 16% of 45 to 54-year-olds.

The same pattern is true for online betting, at 12% for 16 to 34-year-olds, followed by 10% of 45 to 54-year-olds.

By contrast, participation in lotteries and related products is lowest among 16 to 34 year-olds (30%) and highest for 45 to 54-year-olds (56%).

Some 22% of 16 to 34-year-olds do the National Lottery, compared with 47% of 45 to 54-year-olds.

Meanwhile, 13% of adults like betting, including 8% online with a bookmaker and 5% bet on horse racing (at the bookmakers, by phone or at the track).

Some 4% of adults engage in private betting/gambling with friends, family or colleagues.

The new report, based on 5,880 adults surveyed, also found that three in five adults (62%) who reported bad or very bad health said they felt lonely at least some of the time, compared with one in five (18%) with good or very good health.

Overall, more than three-quarters of adults (77%) reported good or very good general health, and 70% of men and 59% of women met NHS recommendations for exercise of at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.

However, more than one in five adults in England (22%) reported feeling lonely at least some of the time.

Some 27% said they never felt lonely whereas 6% reported that they often or always felt lonely (defined as chronic loneliness).

The survey was published by NHS England.