Public Health Impacts of Gambling


Gambling is a popular pastime that involves wagering something of value (money or other items) on the outcome of an event that is random and uncertain. The activity can take many forms and can be done alone or with others. Skill-based games such as poker and blackjack require players to devise and employ tactics, remember numbers, count cards, read body language, and more in order to improve their chances of winning. Gambling can also involve a psychological component wherein gamblers use the game as an outlet for negative feelings such as boredom or anger.

In the literature, gambling impacts are commonly measured at a financial level. Nevertheless, it is important to consider the impact of gambling on social and health-related quality of life. The methodological debate on how to measure these impacts has led to different approaches, including a public health approach to assess them.

Generally, social impacts are considered to be those that aggregate societal real wealth and harm individuals but benefit no one else, as defined by Walker [37]. Similarly, benefits are those that increase societal real wealth and help some people. Despite their non-monetary nature, these benefits have been ignored in most calculations of the costs and benefits of gambling because they are hard to quantify.

Gambling can be a dangerous habit for anyone, but it is particularly harmful for those who already have underlying mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse. These conditions can lead to harmful gambling and may even trigger it. If you are concerned about your own gambling habits or those of a loved one, talk to your doctor or a specialist such as a cognitive behavioural therapist.