Gambling involves placing something of value on a random event with the hope of winning something else of value. This can be anything from betting on a football match to buying scratchcards. It isn’t always obvious what the odds are on an event, and even when they are there, they may not be very clear. Regardless of what is being bet on, it’s important to remember that gambling has both positive and negative impacts on individuals and society as a whole.
People are biologically programmed to seek rewards. When we spend time with loved ones or eat a delicious meal, our bodies release a feel-good neurotransmitter called dopamine that causes us to enjoy the experience. When we gamble, the brain releases dopamine in a similar way, making us feel excited. As a result, some people find it difficult to stop gambling once they have started.
A common problem associated with gambling is the development of a gambling addiction. Pathological gambling is now recognised as a mental health condition, similar to alcohol or drug addiction. It is often a complex combination of factors that contribute to an individual becoming addicted to gambling. These include genetic and psychological predispositions, environmental influences and coexisting mental health conditions.
The risk of developing a gambling addiction can be mitigated by understanding the effects and identifying warning signs. It is also important to have a strong support network to turn to when struggling with a gambling addiction. This could include family members and friends, or joining a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous.
Negative social impacts from gambling can be measured at personal, interpersonal and community/society levels. At the personal level, negative impacts can be seen in the form of financial problems such as gambling debt and escalating credit card debt, as well as strained or broken relationships. Interpersonally, negative impacts can also be seen in the form of lying to family and friends about the amount being spent on gambling.
At the community/society level, negative social impacts can be seen in the form of decreased economic activity, including the effect on tourism, increased costs for other industries, and job losses or gains. Additionally, negative social impacts can be seen in the forms of crime such as armed robberies, burglaries and extortion.
It can be challenging to admit that you have a gambling addiction, especially when it has led to strained or broken relationships. However, many people are able to overcome their addictions and rebuild their lives. If you’re concerned about your own gambling behaviour, it is recommended to talk to a professional therapist. The world’s largest therapy service is 100% online, and can match you with a therapist within 48 hours. You can get in touch with a therapist for free, and they will be able to help you identify the root cause of your gambling habits and provide support. You can even find a therapist who specialises in gambling addiction. Our Safeguarding Courses offer a variety of courses to help you understand the impact gambling can have on vulnerable adults, and what steps you can take to protect them from harm.