Gambling involves wagering something of value (like money, property or life) on an event with a chance of winning something else of value. It is a form of risk-taking and is often associated with feelings of excitement and anticipation. It can also provide a way to socialize, relax and relieve boredom. However, for some people, gambling can become a problem that interferes with their daily lives and causes significant harm.
The negative impacts of gambling can have a significant impact on individuals, families and society as a whole. These impacts include financial, labor and health and well-being. They can occur on the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels (Fig. 1). They can have long-term effects and even change the course of an individual’s life or pass on to future generations.
Problem gamblers can experience many emotional and behavioural changes. Often, they are isolated from family and friends and may feel shame or guilt about their behaviour. They are more likely to experience depression, substance use disorders and thoughts of suicide. Their behavior can be disruptive and harmful to others in their life, including children. They can lose jobs, homes and cars and are at increased risk of bankruptcy and homelessness.
Psychiatrists used to consider pathological gambling a form of impulse control disorder, but in the 1980s, they moved it into the addictions chapter of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Although many people find relief from unpleasant emotions through gambling, there are healthier ways to manage your moods and relieve boredom such as exercising, spending time with supportive people, taking up new hobbies or relaxing.
Many studies have focused on the costs of gambling, which can be measured using economic models. However, the research has not fully considered the social costs of gambling, which are largely non-monetary and difficult to measure. It is essential that we incorporate these into the calculations.
In addition, gambling can have positive effects on a person’s well-being, especially when they are winning. This is attributed to the body’s natural reaction to winning, which triggers the release of hormones such as adrenaline and endorphins. This feeling of pleasure can boost happiness and sense of achievement.
If you are concerned about a friend or relative’s gambling habits, it is important to seek help for them. The first step is to talk with them and let them know you are concerned. It is also vital to set boundaries in managing money. You can do this by setting spending limits and refusing to micromanage their urges. It is also a good idea to get debt advice from an independent advisor such as StepChange.