Public Health Implications of Gambling

Gambling is an activity that involves the use of money or something of value to place a bet. It has both positive and negative effects on the gambler, his or her significant others and society as a whole. Many studies have investigated the economic impacts of gambling, but most fall into one of three categories. Some grossly exaggerate the benefits of gambling, while others merely describe them without providing any insight into how they may be achieved or what their total impact is. Still others make no effort to measure either the costs or benefits of gambling. A comprehensive approach is needed that takes a public health perspective on the topic.

People gamble for a variety of reasons, from the potential to win big money to the social interaction and thrill of playing games. Research suggests that some gamblers are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity, but other factors also play a role. For example, some people are more likely to gamble when they are stressed, anxious or depressed. In addition, gambling can become a habit and be difficult to break. It is important to consider the impact of the gambling activity on your life and seek help if you think you have a problem.

The negative impacts of gambling can be divided into financial, labor and well-being classes. Individual impacts induce effects on a personal level to the gamblers themselves, while external impacts influence the interpersonal and community/society levels and concern other people (e.g., gambler’s increased debt and financial strain affects family members, and escalating debt can lead to bankruptcy and homelessness). It has been difficult to identify ways to quantify the negative effects of gambling. Intangible benefits and costs, such as environmental damages, are often overlooked in economic impact studies, but considerable progress has been made to bring these issues into greater focus.