Public Health and Gambling

Gambling involves betting something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. For some people gambling is a fun and harmless pastime, while for others it can become an addictive and destructive habit that negatively impacts their health, relationships and work or study performance. It can also lead to financial stress, debt and even bankruptcy and homelessness. Problem gambling is associated with a range of psychological distress symptoms, including anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. In addition, people with a history of problematic gambling can have brain changes that affect how they process reward information and control impulses. Cultural values can also affect how people perceive the risk and benefits of gambling, such as when it is regarded as a normal part of life.

There are a number of different approaches to analyzing the social impact of gambling, including cost-benefit analysis, where monetary value is assigned to harms and benefits (e.g., the money lost by gamblers or the cost of social services to help them stop gambling). However, little research has been undertaken using a public health approach that considers both monetary and non-monetary costs and benefits.

It is important to have a good support network when trying to overcome gambling problems, and to find other ways of spending your time and generating income. This can be done by getting involved in hobbies, attending a local community group or finding a peer support program such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is a 12-step recovery program based on the model of Alcoholics Anonymous.