Public Health Impacts of Gambling


Gambling is the wagering of something of value (typically money) on an event whose outcome is uncertain. The bettors must agree on the criteria for winning or losing and on what reward they will give to the loser(s). The event can take place in natural settings such as a race or sports event, or can be generated by machines such as dice or cards. There are several types of gambling, including poker, blackjack, slots, bingo and scratch tickets. It is possible to win big amounts of money from gambling, but it is also possible to lose everything. The thrill of winning and the potential for financial gain are often major motivations for gambling. Other reasons include social interactions, the desirability of obtaining a rare tangible good and the drama or pleasure associated with gambling.

The negative impacts of gambling can have profound personal and social consequences for gamblers and their significant others. They can be at the personal and interpersonal level, or at the community/societal level and may impact people who do not gamble, such as family members. These long-term effects can change the life course of an individual and may persist over generations.

Problem gambling has been shown to increase the demands for social services and to have a negative effect on family stability. It is also a major source of stress in households and can cause relationship problems. Low-income households spend a larger share of their income on gambling than higher-income households, and they are more likely to experience problems as a result of gambling.

In addition, the addiction to gambling can lead to an increased risk of substance abuse and suicide. The risk of suicide is increased by the use of sedatives such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, by the presence of other substances such as heroin or cocaine, and by poor physical health. In addition, people who gamble are more prone to depression and anxiety.

Gambling has many positive aspects, including socializing and mental development, but the negative aspects are often amplified in the media. While a small percentage of people develop a pathological gambling disorder, many other people engage in problematic gambling behavior within a wide range from subclinical to meeting the diagnostic criteria for PG in the DSM-IV. It is important to recognize the positive aspects of gambling and to consider the full range of its impacts. A public health approach to gambling impacts can help researchers and policymakers compare the costs and benefits of different gambling policies. This can inform decisions about which gambling policies are best for society. The costs of gambling can be measured by calculating quality-of-life weights, which are based on the estimated per-person burden of a disease or disability.