The Harmful Effects of Gambling


Gambling involves putting something of value on a chance event with the intention of winning something else of value. It can be done legally in places like casinos, racetracks and online. It can also occur in less regulated settings, such as gas stations, church halls and at sporting events. It is a common pastime that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. People gamble for a variety of reasons, including the thrill of winning, socialising and escaping from worries or stress. However, for some people, gambling can become harmful and lead to financial problems, debts and even depression. If you are worried about your own gambling or the gambling of someone close to you, there is help available. You can also find useful advice on how to stop gambling in our factsheet.

The most commonly used form of gambling is lotteries, which are government-run lottery games with a fixed prize pool. The total amount of money legally wagered on lotteries around the world is estimated at over $10 trillion. In addition to lotteries, many countries have state-licensed casinos and other forms of gambling, such as poker machines, sports betting and horse racing.

While studies have found negative effects of gambling, they have not been systematic in examining all aspects of the problem. For example, only some studies have looked at the social impacts of gambling, which are mainly non-monetary and can be hard to measure. Other important factors that are not usually considered include changes in a gambler’s personal relationships, work performance and health and well-being. The social impacts of gambling can have long-term effects, create a change in an individual’s life course and pass between generations.

Studies have shown that gambling has economic benefits, but it can also cause externalities. These are costs and benefits that affect people other than the gambler, such as changes in personal relationships, increased debt and the effects of escalating gambling on bankruptcy and homelessness. These impacts can be categorized at three levels: personal, interpersonal and community/society.

While it is not possible to fully protect against all gambling harms, you can reduce your risk by limiting how much time and money you spend on gambling. You can also try to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques. You should also consider seeking debt advice if you are struggling with gambling-related debts. For more information, visit StepChange.