More than 5 million people in Japan, or nearly 5 percent of the adult population, are thought to be addicted to gambling, a research team with the health ministry said Wednesday.

The figure is higher than in most other countries, where it is around 1 percent, the research team of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

It is the first time that such a figure has been unveiled in Japan, and one of the reasons is thought to be the abundance of pachinko parlors.

The findings come at a time when the central government is stepping up preparations to introduce resort complexes housing casinos in Japan.

Research team leader Susumu Higuchi, director of the National Hospital Organization Kurihama Medical and Addiction Center, said there needs to be a discussion about the introduction of casinos, saying: "There are definitely negative aspects of gambling."

The research team also disclosed an estimated 4.21 million people in the country are said to be addicted to the Internet, a 1.5-fold rise from 2008, with the number significantly increasing among young people, apparently due to the spread of smartphones.

The research was conducted along with a survey for alcohol dependence in July 2013. The team interviewed 4,153 adults nationwide chosen on a random basis, and conducted research on gambling and Internet addiction based on international standards.

According to the research, 4.38 million men, accounting for 8.7 percent, and 980,000 women, or 1.8 percent, are suspected to suffer from gambling problems, totaling 5.36 million people or 4.8 percent of the adult population in the country.

"The ratio remains high compared with the estimated figure in 2008" that has not been disclosed, said Higuchi. "The development of a treatment environment is swiftly needed."