Gambling is the betting or staking of something of value, whether money or goods or services, on an event with a random outcome. It may be legal or illegal and can occur in a wide range of settings from casinos to horse racing. Gambling is often linked to addiction, especially for problem gamblers. Problem gambling is a complex issue and there are a number of ways to help someone who is having trouble with it.
Longitudinal studies are needed to better understand how gambling affects a person over time. However, the logistics of conducting longitudinal studies are difficult to overcome. For example, obtaining funding for a multiyear commitment is challenging; maintaining research team continuity over a lengthy period of time is difficult and often results in a loss of consistency; there is the risk that repeated testing will influence gambling behavior and/or behavioral reports; and longitudinal data can confound aging and period effects (e.g., did a person’s sudden interest in gambling begin when they turned 18 or at the opening of a new casino?).
The social impacts of gambling have been observed at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels. These include costs and benefits that accrue to or from the gambler at the personal level, such as increased debt or financial strain; impacts on interpersonal relationships, such as arguments and estrangement; and community/societal costs, such as reduced quality of life and diminished social cohesion.
Some people are motivated to gamble purely for the social interaction offered in gambling venues, while others are primarily motivated by the dream of winning big. Problem gambling is characterized by a disproportionate amount of losses to wins and can cause significant emotional, physical and psychological distress.
A person who has a gambling disorder should be encouraged to talk about their problem with a trusted friend or professional counsellor. It’s important to find a private, distraction-free space and set aside enough time to have a meaningful discussion. The person should be made to feel safe and comfortable, so they can open up and talk freely.
Gambling is best enjoyed with disposable income and should not be used to fund bills or rent. Creating boundaries is essential to managing your gambling. It’s also important to only gamble when you can comfortably afford the consequences of a loss. Lastly, never chase lost money; the more you spend trying to get back your losses, the more likely you are to lose even more. It is also worth avoiding gambling when you’re feeling depressed or upset, as these are the times when the brain is most susceptible to making bad decisions.