Gambling Harms


Gambling involves risking something of value on a random event with the hope of winning something else of value. This can include betting on sports events, buying lotto tickets, playing a casino game or using the pokies. Some people gamble for financial reasons, such as winning a jackpot that would allow them to retire early or change their lifestyle. Others gamble for entertainment, such as thinking about what they could do with a large amount of money or the rush that gambling can provide. Regardless of the reason, there are risks associated with gambling that can have a negative impact on the gambler and their family.

Harms caused by gambling can have short and long term financial, physical, emotional and cultural impacts on the gambler, their family and friends. They can also have impacts on the broader community. A number of harms have been identified including anxiety, depression, poor health, substance misuse and relationship problems. Some of these harms can be compounded by other factors, such as the influence of a person’s social network or the presence of comorbid mental health conditions.

Despite its long history of popularity and widespread social acceptance, there is a significant and growing body of evidence that gambling can be harmful. This evidence is based on a variety of sources, including research into the biology of addiction and research into the effects of gambling on the individual and the wider community.

A wide range of factors have been found to influence gambling behaviour and harm, and there is a need for further research into the nature and impact of these issues. There are a number of important implications from this work, including the recognition that a definition of gambling related harm is necessary in order to develop effective interventions and measures. Currently, a wide range of different definitions of harm exist in the literature and this lack of consensus is largely due to the complexity of the issue and the fact that the term harm is highly subjective.

In order to address this, a functional definition of gambling harm was developed by Abbott et al [1]. This definition is consistent with public health approaches and social models of health and includes the recognition that gambling can both cause or exacerbate harms, as well as being subject to the influence of a range of other variables and comorbid conditions. It provides a more holistic and comprehensive understanding of the complexity of gambling harms than was previously possible, and supports the use of standard epidemiological methodologies for measurement in the context of gambling. The definition also identifies a taxonomy of harms experienced by the gambler, their affected family and their community consistent with a public health approach. It is hoped that this definition will form the basis for future work on the measurement of gambling related harm.

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