Gambling Impacts on Mental Health and Social Well-Being
Gambling is when someone risks money or something else of value in the hope of winning a prize. It can be done in a number of ways, including buying lotto tickets, scratchcards, fruit machines, races, animal tracks, sporting events or betting with friends. If they win, they get to keep the prize and if they lose, they lose their money. This can lead to addiction, so it’s important to understand the risks and seek help if you think you might have a problem.
People gamble for many reasons, including socialising, getting an adrenaline rush, escaping from stress or worries or for the thrill of winning. But gambling can also have serious effects on mental health and there’s a real risk of suicide in some cases. If you have suicidal thoughts, call 999 or visit A&E immediately.
Many people find it difficult to stop gambling, even if they enjoy the experience and are not addicted. But there are things you can do to reduce the harm, such as only gambling with money you can afford to lose and not spending more than you can afford to repay, limiting the time spent gambling or finding other activities that help relieve boredom. It’s also important to avoid alcohol and drugs, which can make you more impulsive, and to try and be realistic about the chances of winning.
Gambling impacts can be seen at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels (see Fig 1). Personal and interpersonal level impacts affect the gamblers themselves and their immediate family members. External impacts are observed at the society/community level and involve those who are not gamblers themselves, for example, the impact of increased debt and financial strain on family members, and the effect of escalating gambling on the community.
Methodological challenges are associated with studying these impacts, in particular how to define what constitutes a ‘social cost’ or ‘benefit’ and how to measure them. Most studies have focused on measuring financial and labor impacts, which are more easily quantifiable. This approach, however, ignores the fact that gambling can have a variety of non-monetary impacts on individuals and society. These include a reduction in quality of life and well-being, which can be as significant as any economic costs or benefits.