Gambling As a Public Health Concern

Gambling is an activity in which people place a value on an uncertain event or outcome, typically with the aim of winning something of value. It can be a form of entertainment, relaxation, or even a source of income. However, for some people gambling can become an addiction which negatively impacts their lives, relationships, performance at work or school and even leave them in serious debt or homelessness. Problem gambling is an increasing public health concern, which has been largely ignored by the media and most research.

According to the WHO, a person is considered addicted to gambling when they have a compulsive desire to gamble, which cannot be controlled by the individual. The disorder is similar to a drug addiction because it causes people to seek out rewards from gambling, just as drugs do. Problem gamblers will continue to gamble despite losses, and will often try to win back their money by increasing their bet sizes. Those who suffer from a gambling addiction are also likely to be secretive about their behaviour and lie about how much they gamble.

People can become addicted to all types of gambling, from casino games such as poker and slots to sports betting, lottery games, and online casinos. Regardless of the type of gambling, there are many warning signs which should be monitored, such as lying to family members or colleagues, spending more than you can afford to lose, losing control over your finances and being secretive about your gambling habits.

In addition, there are many negative social impacts of gambling. These impacts can be seen at the personal, interpersonal and community/society level (figure 1). Personal and interpersonal impacts affect the gamblers and their close friends, family and significant others. These impacts can include emotional and financial problems, such as petty theft and illicit lending. It is also common for gamblers to experience mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

While the psychiatric community has historically viewed pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction, this view has begun to change. In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the APA officially classified pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder, alongside other disorders like kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania. The decision was made in order to bring this disorder into the mainstream and encourage more people to seek help. However, there are still many people who do not realise that they have a gambling addiction. This is partly due to the fact that it is not as visible as other addictions, such as drug addiction. In some cases, people are able to hide their gambling problem from family and friends, or they simply do not believe that they have a problem. This can make it difficult for those who are trying to help them to gain their trust. This is why it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible. By doing so, you can take steps to overcome your addiction and restore balance in your life.