Gambling Addiction


Gambling is an activity in which someone puts something of value at risk on an event with an uncertain outcome. It may involve placing a bet on the outcome of a game of chance such as a lottery, a race, a football match or a scratchcard. The element of chance means that there is no way to predict the outcome with certainty, and a large proportion of gambling activities are therefore considered illegal by state or national laws.

There are many reasons why people gamble, ranging from socialising with friends to relieving stress. The main reason is usually the desire to win a prize, which can range from a small amount of money to a life-changing jackpot. However, it is also possible to bet on non-monetary events such as television shows or political elections. In some cases, it is even possible to bet with materials that have a monetary value but are not real cash (eg marbles, pogs or collectable trading cards).

People who suffer from a gambling addiction can find relief through healthier methods of self-soothing unpleasant feelings or relieving boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble or taking up new hobbies. They should also learn to set time and money limits and not hide their gambling. If they find that their gambling is causing harm, they should seek professional help.

In addition to seeking treatment from a qualified counsellor, they can also consider joining a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step recovery programme based on Alcoholics Anonymous. However, it is important to be aware that gambling addiction can be very difficult to overcome on your own. Having strong family and friendship support can be key to helping you break your habit.

The research team conducted a series of focus groups and semi-structured interviews with people who have experienced harm from their own or another person’s gambling. Interviews lasted from around forty to sixty minutes and were recorded and transcribed. The purpose of the study was to develop a functional definition of gambling related harm that could be operationalised and measured consistent with standard public health approaches to measuring health outcomes, whilst capturing the breadth of harm experiences within communities and incorporating the influence of comorbidities.

The final definition developed by the research team was that ‘Gambling related harm is any initial or exacerbated adverse consequence of engagement with gambling, which negatively impacts on an individual’s health and wellbeing’. This definition separates the harm experienced by people who engage in gambling from those harmed by their interactions with the gambling industry, and reflects the wider community of stakeholders that have an interest in the consequences of gambling. It is also intended to allow for a future measurement of harm that is less reliant on pathogenic measures and broadens the scope to include harms incurred by those who work in the gambling sector or provide gambling treatment and support services.

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