Gambling is a risky activity that involves the use of money or other assets on the chance of winning something of value. This can be as simple as a person betting on an event or it can involve complex commercial endeavours with little to no agreement on what is to be won and how it will be won.

The behavioural effects of gambling are well known and recognised, with a range of negative outcomes being associated with the participation in gambling. The harms associated with gambling can vary depending on the frequency of gambling and the amount of money involved.

Generally speaking, the more frequently a person gambles, the more severe their harms become. However, a person who has a problem with gambling can experience significant harm even when they are not gambling regularly.

Harm minimisation is one of the key public health approaches to gambling in terms of prevention and treatment. This is done in a variety of ways, including:

Understanding the Harms of Gambling

There are many different theories regarding gambling related harm. They include the notion of ‘gambling disorder’, where people engage in excessive or uncontrollable behaviours to try to win large amounts of money.

Mental health professionals use criteria to help diagnose a gambling disorder. The DSM 5 (the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) lists gambling disorder alongside other addictive behaviors such as alcohol or drug abuse.

These criteria are based on a number of factors including how long someone has engaged with gambling, how often they gamble and how much money they have lost. These are considered a good indicator of how severe a gambling disorder is and they should be used to guide treatment planning.

Psychological and Emotional Distress

Depression, stress or other underlying mood disorders can cause problems with gambling. These can make gambling more difficult to control and can result in more harms if left untreated.

The harms relating to these can range from emotional and psychological distress to physical health issues such as increased blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. It is common for people who suffer from a gambling problem to also have an underlying depression or other mood disorder, and the harms associated with this are often exacerbated by their gambling.

Having a gambling problem can lead to negative effects on relationships, and it can cause damage to your finances and credit ratings. It can have a serious impact on your career and your family life, so it is important to seek help if you are having trouble controlling your gambling.

Relationships are the most significant social sphere for a person to be involved in, and the impacts of gambling on these can be extremely detrimental. This can include issues of time and trust, the lack of engagement or effort in a relationship, and the impact on the other person’s perceptions of the person who gambles.

There are a number of options for dealing with gambling-related issues, including family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counseling. These will help you work through the specific issues caused by your gambling and lay the foundation for repairing your relationships and your finances.