Gambling and Public HealthMarch 21, 2023
Gambling is a risky activity in which you place a bet on an uncertain outcome. It is a common way of making money, and can involve anything from playing cards to winning a lottery. It is a widely accepted form of social entertainment that can be enjoyed by many people.
Harmful gambling is a common public health concern, especially in the United States, where four out of five adults have gambled at least once in their lives. This can be a normal part of everyday life for some, but if it starts to negatively impact on your relationships, work and financial stability, it may be time to look for help.
The definition of harm in relation to gambling is a complex issue and requires a broad understanding of the concept from a variety of disciplines. This has resulted in a lack of robust, agreed-upon definitions. The difficulty of defining harm is further complicated by the fact that harm can vary significantly and be associated with different underlying comorbidities.
This is reflected in the different dimensions of harm experienced by people who gamble, those affected by their gambling behaviours and the broader community. The breadth of experiences of harm gathered for this project highlighted the diversity of harms, subjectivity of what people considered harmful and the complex inter-relationships between harms and sources of harm.
Identifying the harms that people experienced was challenging because gambling is a complex behaviour that can be undertaken at different times and with varying intensity, resulting in a number of temporal categories or differentiations in the experience of harm [12, 18]. The experience of harm is a highly subjective experience that can lead to distorted cognitions, delusions and feelings of powerlessness. It can also lead to an escalation in gambling behaviours and can be linked with other comorbidities such as alcohol abuse or depression.
Stigma is a strong factor in the experiences of harm related to gambling, particularly for people with a mental health problem who are prone to engaging in risky behaviours. The level of stigma was reported to be strongest in smaller communities, and tended to have a significant impact on the person who gambled as well as those in their family.
Legal punishment for gambling is varied and depends on the nature of the crime and the criminal justice system in the country concerned. Misdemeanour penalties for gambling are typically up to a year in jail, while felony convictions can bring much longer sentences. Courts may also impose probation instead of jail time for certain types of crimes.
A rehabilitative approach is required to address the harms that people experience from gambling. A range of interventions including family therapy and marriage, career and credit counselling can help people manage their gambling problems and repair their relationships and finances.
Creating support networks is important for anyone who has a gambling problem. Reaching out to friends and family can provide encouragement and support, as well as a sense of belonging. A support network can also be used to help people cope with the stress that can be caused by a gambling addiction.