Understanding the Social Impacts of Gambling

Gambling is the wager of something of value on a random event with the intent to win something else of value, where instances of strategy are discounted. It can be done in many different ways, from betting on horses or playing slots in a casino to online poker and DIY investing. Regardless of the medium, gambling can have negative consequences and is linked to mental health problems. Despite the popularity of gambling, there are few effective treatments for problem gambling. However, better understanding the causes of gambling and recognizing warning signs can help people stop.

While research has focused primarily on monetary losses, social impacts of gambling are also important. These include personal and interpersonal costs, and community/society level external costs. In the past, examining these aspects has been difficult because they are often invisible and have not yet been quantified.

Identifying the costs and benefits of gambling has been challenging because they are complex and vary in scale and scope. The impacts of gambling occur on three levels: individual, interpersonal, and societal/community. Those on the personal level are mostly invisible and include emotional stress and relationship problems, which cannot be expressed in monetary terms. Interpersonal level impacts involve family members of gamblers and include a variety of hidden and intangible costs.

The community/societal level includes external costs related to gambling, including general costs/benefits, the costs of problem gambling, and long-term impacts. In comparison to the other two levels, community/societal impact is easier to quantify.

It is estimated that about 10% of the US population has a serious gambling problem, which is higher than for most other countries. Among those affected, four in five are men. Many people who have a problem with gambling do so for coping reasons, such as to forget their worries or feel more confident or because it relieves anxiety or boredom. In addition, they may have underlying mood disorders such as depression or anxiety that can be triggered by compulsive gambling and made worse by it.

Taking control of finances is one way to prevent gambling addiction and keep your financial life in check. Some tips to consider are to get rid of credit cards, make someone in your household responsible for money management, close accounts at online gambling sites and only carry a small amount of cash on you. You should also seek professional help if you have underlying mood problems, such as depression or anxiety, which can cause or be made worse by gambling.

The most effective treatment for problem gambling involves addressing underlying issues such as mood disorders, relationships, and employment. It is also critical to address any impulsivity or risk-taking, which are a common sign of gambling disorder. Behavioral therapy can teach you how to control your gambling urges and learn new coping skills. However, the most important thing is to seek help as soon as possible because gambling disorders can be incredibly difficult to overcome on your own. Fortunately, you are not alone; many other families have had to cope with this challenge and are available to help.