The Effects of Gambling on Health and Well-Being

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an event that is primarily decided by chance with the intention of winning something else of value. It can be done for money or non-monetary items, such as goods and services, and may involve an element of skill. People can gamble for fun, or as a way to relieve stress and boredom. In some countries, gambling is illegal. However, many people still engage in it. The global annual turnover of legal gambling exceeds $10 trillion (though the amount of illegal betting may be much higher).

Gambling can have negative effects on a person’s health and social well-being. These impacts can be observed at the individual, interpersonal, and society/community level. In terms of individual/interpersonal impact, gambling has been found to cause financial and emotional strains on the gambler and his/her significant others. These strains can also have a long-term effect on a person’s quality of life.

These psychological impacts can be attributed to the nature of the activity, as well as personal traits and coexisting mental health conditions. Individuals who are predisposed to risk-taking and thrill-seeking behaviours may be more susceptible to problem gambling. Genetic factors, including an underactive brain reward system, have also been linked to gambling addiction. In addition, culture can play a role in defining what constitutes acceptable gambling activities and when one becomes addicted.

In terms of social and economic impact, studies have found that gambling increases revenue and employment in the gaming industry. However, fewer studies have looked at the social and economic costs associated with gambling. These costs can be measured using a public health approach, such as using quality-of-life (QOL) weights known as disability weights. These weights measure the per-person burden of a health state on the person’s quality of life and can be used to quantify intangible costs.

Some of the most common impacts associated with gambling include financial, family/personal, and work/educational problems. Financial costs can include increased debt, reduced earnings and even bankruptcy. These costs are often incurred by the gambler’s spouse, children, friends and/or other family members. These costs can be further exacerbated when they are not recognized and acknowledged. Other personal and interpersonal impacts include lying to loved ones, downplaying or denying gambling behaviors, and relying on other sources of income to fund gambling. These impacts are often invisible and can have long-term effects on a person’s life course.