Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. The gambler hopes that he or she will ‘win’ and gain something of value, such as money. The term ‘gambling’ is often used in a narrow sense, to refer to betting on sports events, but it also includes activities such as buying lottery or scratch tickets, playing bingo, and placing bets at work. Gambling has many social impacts, ranging from minor to severe, that affect more than the gambler. These include financial, labor, and health/well-being impacts. These can occur at the individual, interpersonal, or community/societal levels.
The social impact of gambling can be divided into three main categories: costs, benefits, and harms. Costs of gambling can include loss of income, family responsibilities, and social relationships. In addition, people with a gambling problem can experience negative psychological and emotional effects such as depression and anxiety.
Most research on gambling has focused on measuring economic costs, which are readily quantifiable. However, this approach is biased, as it ignores the positive side of gambling. Using a public health perspective, researchers should aim to measure all the impacts of gambling including the intangible harms not necessarily monetary.
One way to do this is by conducting a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of gambling. This will allow for a more balanced assessment of the effects of gambling. However, research on CBAs is still scarce. This gap in knowledge is critical for developing a more balanced evidence base on gambling and should be addressed as part of the debate on public policy.
A second way to assess the social impact of gambling is by studying the behavior of individuals who engage in it. This can help identify the characteristics of gamblers, and how they differ from non-gamblers. This will be important for developing targeted interventions to reduce gambling activity and the associated harms.
Finally, we can also learn from the experiences of people who have overcome a gambling addiction. This can be a powerful way to show the potential of treatment and motivate others to seek help.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with a gambling problem, be patient and try to understand their situation. They may be doing it for coping reasons, such as to forget their problems or to feel more self-confident. If this is the case, encourage them to try healthier ways of dealing with unpleasant emotions and re-channel their energy into other pursuits. You can also offer them advice on effective treatments for gambling addiction and point them in the direction of local resources that can provide help and support. For example, they can try exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, and practicing relaxation techniques.