Public Health Impacts of Gambling

Gambling is a type of entertainment in which you place a bet on an event that has a random outcome. This bet can be on a football match, a horse race, or even scratchcards. When you win, your brain releases a dopamine response that rewards you for taking on the risk and for winning. This is similar to how you are rewarded when you successfully shoot a basketball into a net and get closer each time, or when you practice your hand-eye coordination with a video game.

Despite its popularity, gambling has many negative social and economic impacts. It can cause stress, depression, financial problems, relationship issues, and family problems. Moreover, it can also result in addiction and other mental health problems. Many people who struggle with gambling disorders are not able to quit the habit on their own and require treatment from qualified professionals. This treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, and medication. There are also many support groups for those struggling with gambling disorders that can provide help and encouragement.

The most obvious cost of gambling is the money that you spend on bets. However, there are other costs as well, such as the opportunity cost of using your time for gambling instead of doing something else. In addition, there are emotional costs that can be associated with gambling, such as anxiety and stress.

A lot of people who gamble do so for entertainment or to profit from the activity, but when it becomes problematic it can become a way to escape reality and avoid dealing with issues in your life. This can create a vicious circle as you use gambling to distract yourself from real problems and then end up more stressed because of your unhealthy behavior.

Problematic gambling affects all aspects of a person’s life, including their work, relationships, and health. In some cases, it can lead to bankruptcy and homelessness. It can also negatively impact the economy of a region, as people spend less on other activities and businesses lose revenue. In addition, it can have a negative effect on family and friendships as gamblers often prioritize their habit over their loved ones.

Using a public health approach to gambling, the negative and positive impacts are assessed across the severity spectrum. These include impacts at the personal, interpersonal, and community/societal levels (Fig. 1). Financial impacts include gambling revenues, tourism, and changes in economic costs or values. Labor impacts include gambling effects on workers, such as absenteeism, poor performance, and job losses. Health and well-being impacts are the direct or indirect impacts on a person’s physical, psychological, and social health and wellbeing.

When it comes to gambling, a common mistake is to focus only on the economic benefits and ignore the social impacts. This can lead to biased estimates of the costs and benefits of gambling, which underestimate the harms. To prevent this, it is important to define and measure both economic and social impacts.