Gambling is an activity in which participants place money or something of value on the outcome of a random event, such as a roll of dice or the spin of a roulette wheel. This type of activity can be done individually in a private setting, like with scratchcards or fruit machines, or with friends and family in social settings, such as card games or sports bets.
While gambling has positive effects for some, it also causes significant harm to individuals and their families. The negative impact can persist long after a person has stopped gambling, and can even pass down through generations. It is therefore important to consider the social impacts of gambling as well as the economic ones.
Most studies of the effects of gambling have focused on monetary costs and benefits, as these are readily quantifiable. However, social impacts are invisible to the individual and thus hard to quantify. These include the psychological effects of gambling, the personal and interpersonal consequences, and the indirect costs incurred by society/community. The social impacts of gambling can be assessed using health-related quality of life weights, or disability weights (DW), which provide a per-person measure of the burden on health-related functioning imposed by a health condition.
Some social impacts of gambling are direct, such as the cost of losing money or property. Others are indirect, such as the negative impacts of losing control of finances or the impact on relationships. The latter can be serious, and lead to debt, divorce, suicide, and other forms of self-harm.
In addition to the financial risks, gambling can be an addictive behaviour. In some cases, a person can become hooked on gambling because they are seeking to soothe unpleasant emotions or to relieve boredom, such as after a difficult day at work or following an argument with a loved one. Instead of gambling, there are healthier ways to manage these emotions and find relaxation, such as exercising, spending time with family and friends who do not gamble, or trying new hobbies.
If you are worried that you or someone close to you has a problem with gambling, there are many organisations that can help. These can offer support, assistance and advice to help people regain control of their finances and stop them from gambling or avoid it altogether. They can also offer therapy and other services, such as family therapy, marriage counselling, and career or credit counseling. In some cases, these organisations can take over the management of a person’s credit or bank accounts to prevent them from gambling. They can also help them to explore their reasons for gambling, and provide them with alternative ways of coping with unpleasant feelings. They can also help a person to build a stronger support network and to find alternatives to gambling, such as joining a peer support group for problem gamblers. One such group is Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step recovery program modelled on Alcoholics Anonymous.