The Effects of Gambling

Gambling is an activity involving risking something of value on an event that is primarily determined by chance in the hope of winning a prize. It is an activity that has existed in virtually every society since prerecorded history and is a part of many local customs, rites of passage, and entertainment. It is considered an addictive activity if someone does it excessively, and can have negative impacts on their physical and mental health, relationships, work performance and social life. Problem gambling has been linked to alcohol and drug addiction, depression and suicide. It can also have financial and economic consequences on individuals, families, and businesses.

The positive aspects of gambling include the entertainment value and leisure time choice it provides, as well as its ability to provide an alternative source of income for people who cannot otherwise afford other forms of recreation. It has also been found that recreational gamblers tend to be in better overall health than nongamblers. In addition, the literature has identified that older people may be attracted to gambling as a way of enhancing their self-concepts and maintaining psychological functioning [105].

People who are at greater risk for developing a pathological gambling disorder include those with low incomes, those who start gambling before age 21, and men compared to women. Those who have a family history of alcohol or drug problems are more likely to develop gambling disorders. People who are involved in the military or have a history of sexual abuse are also more vulnerable to gambling problems. The prevalence of problem and pathological gambling varies worldwide, with estimates ranging from 1 to 4% of the adult population.

There are a number of negative effects of gambling, including the disruption to personal and professional lives, strained relationships, increased debt, legal difficulties, homelessness, suicide and other mental illness. It is estimated that one problem gambler can affect up to seven other people, including spouses, children, significant others and coworkers. Problem gambling has also been linked to a range of illegal activities, such as forgery, fraud, theft and embezzlement, to finance gambling activities.

Gambling can cause both short-term and long-term effects. The short-term effects of gambling are referred to as general impacts, and they manifest on the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels (Fig. 1). The personal and interpersonal level refers to the impact on gamblers themselves, while the long-term impacts occur at the family and society/community levels. The long-term impacts of gambling can materialize even when a person stops gambling and may influence their future decisions and behaviors. For example, a gambler’s bankruptcy can have negative effects on their children and other family members. At the society/community level, the money spent on gambling can create positive long-term effects if it is partly directed toward beneficial causes such as public services and environmental protection. On the other hand, the negative long-term impacts can also result from problem gambling if it is not addressed. In addition, some communities benefit from gambling revenues through the attraction of tourism.