Gambling is any activity where a person risks something of value, typically money, to win or lose. It can be an informal or formal activity with a variety of forms including gaming, betting, lottery and insurance.
Gambling can be a form of addiction and can have significant negative impacts on a person’s health and wellbeing, family life and relationships. It is therefore important to identify and minimise the harms that gambling can cause.
A number of harms are associated with gambling behaviour, and there are a number of risk factors that can lead to more severe harms. These include a range of mental health and substance use problems, financial difficulties, social isolation and relationship breakdown.
Harm minimisation is a central goal of public health approaches to gambling. It seeks to reduce the negative impact of gambling on a person’s health and well-being through promoting healthy behavioural choices and preventing problem gambling.
It also encourages people to take responsibility for their own behaviour, and to seek assistance if they are experiencing problems. There are a range of support services available, including Gamblers Anonymous.
Mood disorders such as depression or stress are often associated with gambling. These can cause a person to gamble more and can make the existing problem worse, so it is important to seek help for these conditions if they are present.
Feelings of loneliness, boredom and unhappiness can also be a motivating factor for gambling. There are healthier ways to cope with these emotions, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.
Other reasons for gambling include the prospect of winning big. This may be linked to a sense of euphoria, and is often part of the brain’s reward system.
The person’s desire to gamble can lead to them consuming more money than they can afford or spending all their savings. This is a sign that they are losing control over their behaviour and should be avoided as soon as possible.
In addition to this, gambling can be a source of stress and anxiety, so it is also important to address any mental health issues that might be contributing to the problem. There are a number of treatment services and resources that can help with these issues, including GPs, counsellors, psychologists and addiction specialists.
Relationships are a key source of support for many people who are gambling. If a person is having difficulty managing their gambling, it is important to build a strong support network and find someone who can be a mentor or sponsor to support them in their recovery.
As with financial harms, relationship harms were reported as very impactful on a person’s health and wellbeing and on those who are affected by their behaviour. In particular, the data identified a critical point in seeking assistance or treatment where relationship harms had caused a breakdown or threat of breakdown of a primary relationship (e.g., with their partner, spouse, child or family).
Despite the importance of these relationship harms to a person’s health and wellbeing it was difficult to quantify them. The data highlighted that there was a need for further research to develop an operationalised definition of gambling related relationship harms in order to better understand the impact of this type of harm.