Whether it’s purchasing a lotto ticket, placing a bet on the horse race or hitting the pokies, gambling is an activity that involves risking something of value in the hope of winning something else of value. It may occur in casinos, racetracks, and other venues or even on the internet. People gamble for many reasons, including changing their mood, the dream of a big jackpot win and social rewards. But while the potential for winning money is a big draw, there are many other risks involved in gambling such as health problems (including cardiovascular and musculoskeletal problems), substance misuse, psychiatric disorders and interpersonal relationship issues. This is why much more research into gambling is needed.
A major challenge is that it can be difficult to distinguish between an urge to gamble and a problem gambling disorder. This is because many people who suffer from problem gambling disorder experience a range of psychological and emotional symptoms, including depression, anxiety, substance misuse and poor family functioning. In addition, these people often have difficulty focusing at work and in their relationships, which can cause them to neglect other aspects of their lives. This makes it hard for them to know when their gambling is out of control and causing harm.
The defining characteristic of problem gambling is a preoccupation with gambling and an inability to control the urge. This can cause serious personal and financial problems and can lead to suicide. Those who are worried that they might have a problem with gambling should be encouraged to seek help and to contact Gamblers Anonymous, a peer support group modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous.
In order to minimise the chances of gambling becoming a problem, people should be sure to only gamble with disposable income and not money they could otherwise spend on essentials such as food, shelter and utilities. They should also set limits in advance about how long they want to gamble and how much they can spend, and stick to these limits. Finally, they should recognise that there is a good chance they will lose and not try to “chase” their losses.
The emergence of new gambling products with addictive features such as touchscreens and social media integration is contributing to an increase in the prevalence of problem gambling. These products make it easier to engage in gambling and can lead to more rapid and intense increases in spending. A better understanding of the underlying issues is needed to develop more effective prevention and treatment strategies. This requires the use of longitudinal data that allow researchers to identify the factors that influence and exacerbate gambling behaviours. Such studies are more feasible than the traditional cross-sectional surveys used in most gambling research. Moreover, longitudinal studies allow for more precise measurement of the effects of gambling and can improve the validity and reliability of existing measures. As a result, they are an important tool for policymakers and public health practitioners. In addition, they can provide insight into the causal processes underlying the development of gambling problems and inform the design of targeted interventions that are more likely to be effective.