Public Health Implications of Gambling


Gambling is a form of risk-taking where the gambler bets something of value, such as money or property, on an event that is determined by chance. Although most people associate gambling with casino games such as slots and table games like blackjack, it also occurs in everyday activities such as buying lottery tickets, playing bingo or betting on office pools. Regardless of the type of gambling, all forms of gambling carry costs and benefits for individuals, communities and societies. In a public health approach, the impacts of gambling on society, both positive and negative, are assessed across the entire severity spectrum of the activity. This differs from the current methodology used in economic costing studies which typically focus on problem and pathological gambling, overlooking the significant benefits associated with non-problematic gambling.

Gambling has various impacts at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels (Fig 1). At the individual level, gambling carries visible, hidden and long-term costs. These include loss of income, increased debt, social isolation and mental health problems. At the interpersonal level, gambling causes harms to gamblers’ family members. At the society/community level, gambling has societal costs such as regulation costs, funding of gambling-related professional training and treatment, and increased social instability caused by gambling.

A common reason why people gamble is to relieve unpleasant emotions such as loneliness, boredom or stress. However, these emotions can be better relieved by taking up healthier hobbies such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. In addition, gambling can lead to addiction, which has severe and lasting impacts on an individual and their families.

Despite the fact that most people enjoy the excitement and thrill of winning, it is important to realize that gambling can be addictive and cause serious harm. If you are worried that you may be developing a gambling problem, it is important to seek help immediately. In addition, you can reduce your risks by only gambling with money that you can afford to lose and setting time and money limits in advance. It is also important to stay away from online casinos and always keep a small amount of cash on you.

Some people gamble to socialize and meet new people. This is especially true of multiplayer gambling games. For example, blackjack and poker require strategic thinking and careful planning. These skills can be useful in other areas of life, including business and personal relationships.

In addition, gambling can stimulate the brain to release dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the body, which improves happiness and wellbeing. It is also a great way to meet people with similar interests and share experiences. However, it is important to remember that gambling can also be a waste of time and money. Therefore, you should only gamble with money that you can afford to lose and don’t try to win back your losses. If you find yourself losing more than you are winning, stop and take a break from gambling altogether.