Gambling and Harm

Gambling involves placing something of value, such as money, on the outcome of a random event. The event could be a sports match, lottery draw, game of cards or scratchcard. It’s estimated that the total amount of money legally wagered in the world each year is $10 trillion.

Gambling is considered an addictive behaviour and it can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health, relationships, employment and family life. It can also lead to financial hardship and homelessness. In addition, gambling can increase the risk of other disorders such as depression and substance use problems.

People who experience gambling problems can get help from a range of services and support services. Counselling can be helpful in developing strategies to deal with gambling problems, and help people think about how they can improve their lives. Cognitive behavioural therapy is one form of counselling which is effective in treating gambling problems. It teaches people to change their irrational beliefs about gambling, such as believing that they are more likely to win than they actually are or that certain rituals can bring them luck. It can also help people to develop more positive ways of dealing with stressful situations in their lives.

There are a number of ways to reduce harm from gambling, including setting time and money limits, making informed choices and never chasing losses. People who gamble should treat it as an entertainment expense, not a way to make money. It’s important to remember that gambling is a game of chance, so it’s impossible to win every time. It’s also important to avoid thinking that you are due a win or can recoup your losses, as this is called the gambler’s fallacy.

Research suggests that more than half of the UK population takes part in some form of gambling activity. For many it’s a fun and social activity, but for others it can cause serious harm. Problem gambling can damage health and wellbeing, lead to relationship difficulties, impact on work or study, and even result in criminal acts. It can also affect family, friends and the wider community.

The research on gambling related harm includes a literature review, focus groups and interviews with people who have experienced gambling problems, their affected others and professionals involved in the treatment of gambling related harms. It has identified six thematic categories of harm: financial harms, harms relating to relationships, emotional or psychological harms, impacts on health and wellbeing, impacts on work, study or economic activity and criminal acts. It has also developed a catalogue of harms which is organised into a taxonomy. This broader definition of harm is consistent with public health approaches to measuring health outcomes and reflects the fact that harms are often complex and interrelated.

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