Gambling Harms

Gambling is the wagering of something of value, with conscious risk and hope of gain, on a game, contest or uncertain event. The value of the stake can be financial (money, goods or services) or something else of value such as status or recognition. Some games of chance involve skill or knowledge, while others involve strategy. In some cases, the gambler will lose money or things of value, while in others, they may win something.

A growing body of evidence indicates that gambling can be a serious problem for many people, even those who do not consider themselves compulsive gamblers. This is reflected in the inclusion of gambling disorder in DSM-5, in which it joins other behavioral addictions such as drug addiction and alcoholism. While most gambling-related harms are financial, some can also impact relationships and the ability to work or study. In addition, some of the harms can have a cultural or spiritual significance for people of religious belief or for those who live in remote communities.

Harms resulting from gambling can be classified at three levels: those experienced by the person who gambles, those affecting their family and friends, and those affecting the broader community. This classification is based on the understanding that harms can occur across a range of domains, including:

Initial themes identified by analysis indicated that a clearer conceptual framework could be developed to illustrate the experience of gambling related harms. Initially six distinct thematic classifications were proposed, with these focusing on a range of outcomes: financial harms, those affecting relationships, emotional or psychological harms, impacts on health and wellbeing, impact on the ability to work or study and harms to the environment.

There are a number of things that can be done to help someone with gambling problems, such as counselling and seeking support from family and friends. It is also important to address any underlying mood disorders that may contribute to the gambling behavior, such as depression or stress. Other ways to reduce the urge to gamble include spending time with non-gambling friends, exercising, taking up new hobbies and trying relaxation techniques. Those who are struggling to control their gambling can seek advice from a variety of sources, such as contacting a debt charity like StepChange for free debt help. Those who continue to struggle with harmful gambling behaviour can consider joining a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a similar model to Alcoholics Anonymous. The National Helpline is also a good source of information and guidance.

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