Gambling is a form of activity that involves risking something of value (money or goods) on an event whose outcome depends on chance, such as lotteries, casino games and sports betting. It also includes activities that involve a mixture of skill and chance, such as scratchcards and fruit machines. People gamble to win additional money or material goods, or for the thrill of it. The risks involved in gambling can include addiction, financial loss and damage to health and well-being. Gambling can cause negative impacts on individuals, families and the community, including increased debt, financial strain, unemployment and homelessness. Some of these effects can have long-term consequences, creating a change in the life course of an individual and even pass between generations. These effects are categorized into three classes: financial, labor and health and well-being.
Despite the wide popularity of gambling, there are many negative impacts. Problem gambling can be a significant threat to the financial and psychological wellbeing of individuals, resulting in problems such as poor credit management, unmanaged debt, family discord, low self-esteem and social isolation. In addition, excessive gambling can have a negative impact on a person’s health and well-being, contributing to depression and anxiety, as well as increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke and other illnesses.
The motivations for gambling are diverse, and may be influenced by personal factors such as income and family background. In some cases, gambling is a way to alleviate unpleasant emotions such as boredom or loneliness, and it can also provide a distraction from other issues such as domestic violence or substance use. However, it is important to recognise that there are healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, and practicing relaxation techniques.
Studies have focused on examining the economic costs and benefits of gambling, which are easy to quantify. However, social impacts are less widely understood. This is partly because they can be more difficult to measure, and because they often appear as a combination of individual and collective behaviour.
Methodological challenges include defining what constitutes a “social cost” and how to measure it. For example, some social costs are invisible and may be hidden in other forms of expenditure, such as lost productivity and employee absenteeism. Others are directly related to the behaviour of gamblers, such as the fear of losing employment or a lack of confidence in their abilities.
Another challenge is the difficulty in conducting longitudinal studies on gambling. This is because it can be difficult to maintain research team continuity over a long period of time, and because there are difficulties with re-testing and sample attrition. Moreover, there is the possibility that some participants will hide their gambling activities or lie about them, which can confound analysis. Nonetheless, longitudinal studies are becoming increasingly commonplace, sophisticated and theory-based. However, further progress in this area is needed.