The Social Impacts of Gambling

Gambling is betting something of value on an event that is determined by chance and involves the risk of losing the value betted upon. It is a common pastime activity in most countries and can be done in many ways, from buying lottery tickets to playing poker. It is estimated that more than one billion people participate in gambling worldwide every year. However, the negative impacts of gambling are greater than the benefits. It is important to know the signs of a problem before it becomes serious and seek help when needed.

Often, the gambler is secretive about his or her gambling activities and lies to family members and friends. He or she may feel the need to increase bets in a desperate attempt to win back lost money. A gambling addiction can lead to a variety of symptoms including financial problems, emotional distress, and relationship difficulties. In some cases, gambling can even interfere with work and school. Those who have an addiction to gambling are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, which can lead to more gambling and more debt. In some cases, an individual who is addicted to gambling is unable to sleep, which leads to poor eating habits and weight loss. The person is also more prone to drug and alcohol use.

The most obvious sign of a gambling addiction is lying to family and friends about your activity or hiding funds. Other symptoms include feeling compelled to gamble, becoming depressed or anxious when not gambling, and experiencing changes in your behavior. These symptoms are similar to those of a substance abuse problem and should be taken seriously. If you think that you have a problem with gambling, there are several things you can do to help yourself recover. One way to do this is to strengthen your support network. Reach out to family and friends, enroll in an education class, or join a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. You can also try to postpone gambling, which may give you time to calm down and avoid a gambling binge.

Many studies have attempted to evaluate the economic costs and benefits of gambling but few have focused on social impacts. These social impacts can be observed at the personal, interpersonal, and community/society levels (Fig 1). Personal and interpersonal level impacts are mostly non-monetary and involve feelings such as guilt and shame. These costs are often hidden and overlooked by researchers. At the society/community level, external impacts are usually monetary and include general costs related to gambling and cost of problem gambling.

A key methodological challenge is determining which portion of impacts are social versus monetary. Most research into the effects of gambling on society has used a cost-benefit analysis framework that assigns monetary values to health-related quality of life (HRQL) weights, or disability weights. This approach is useful in identifying gambling harms and gains but ignores positive effects that are not easily quantified. Social impacts are a complex topic and have been difficult to measure.