Gambling is a form of betting that involves the risk of losing money. It can be anything from playing a game of chance to gambling on the outcome of a lottery. It is a popular activity around the world, and can be addictive.
A gambling problem occurs when a person cannot control their behaviour and the activity is having a negative impact on their life. It can also be the result of a psychological disorder, like depression or anxiety.
When someone is diagnosed with a gambling problem, they will need help to stop their behaviour and deal with the harm that has been caused by it. The person may be a parent, partner, friend or colleague and need to talk to a trained professional about their problems.
Symptoms of a gambling problem can be hard to identify, but they are usually a sign that someone is having difficulty controlling their behaviour. They can include spending more than they can afford to, lying to hide the extent of their gambling, or returning again and again after losses to try to recoup the money they have lost.
The problem can also be linked to other issues, such as financial instability or poor mental health. If a person has a history of these problems, it is more likely they will be susceptible to gambling addiction.
Harms are generally considered as a third way to measure problem gambling behaviour, after behavioural symptoms and diagnostic criteria. However, the term ‘harm’ is a highly subjective and intuitive one that can be difficult to use and define. It is also difficult to establish a consistent definition of gambling related harms across different studies and populations.
It is not only the person who gambles that experiences harm, but also other people around them and even broader society. This is a key feature of gambling related harms, and was considered important to recognise when a framework for identifying these harms was developed.
A first level of severity, the index case, reflected the impact on a person’s finances and savings. This included loss of income, which affected the person’s capacity to pay for things they needed or wanted, and their ability to save money. This loss of financial resources affected other areas of their life as well, such as family or social activities, employment, education and leisure.
This impacted on the individual’s relationship and social life, and their sense of self-worth and identity. It also affected their health and wellbeing, with a number of symptoms identified as being directly related to gambling behaviour including headaches, stomachaches, sleeplessness and nausea.
There are a range of harmful effects that can occur when someone has a gambling problem, such as stress and anxiety, mood disorders, substance abuse, financial hardship, and family conflict. If these are not treated early, the problems can worsen and become serious.
The concept of gambling related harm is a new one in Australia, and was introduced through the Australian government’s Gambling Prevalence Study in 2010. This is a major step forward to better understand the impact of gambling on health, but it does need further exploration as it does not currently have an agreed definition or standardised measurements for use in research studies and public health interventions.