The Social Impacts of Gambling
Gambling involves placing something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value. The act of gambling requires three things: consideration, risk and a prize. Some people gamble for enjoyment, and others find it to be a source of stress relief. In many cases, however, the activity can cause harm to individuals and society. In addition to the obvious financial harms, it can impact physical and mental health, relationships, performance at work or school, and even lead to debt and homelessness. Problem gambling can also have social and community impacts that affect those outside the gambler’s immediate family.
Research has shown that humans are biologically motivated to seek rewards. Whether it’s spending time with loved ones, eating a great meal or betting on a sports game, our brains release dopamine when we experience positive outcomes. This reward mechanism is a big reason why some people become addicted to gambling. Compulsive gamblers may try to feed this addiction by prioritising it over other aspects of their lives, such as personal finances or work. They might even lie to friends and family about their gambling habits.
While it is true that the positives of gambling can outweigh the negatives, it’s important to recognise that there is a fine line between a recreational pastime and an addictive behaviour. When an individual starts to feel like they are struggling, it’s important to ask for help. There are many organisations that offer support and advice to those who need it. This could be in the form of a therapist or someone to talk to over the phone.
When it comes to examining the costs and benefits of gambling, studies have tended to focus on economic impacts, which are easier to quantify. As a result, studies tend to ignore social impacts. However, this is a mistake. These impacts are important, and they can be very damaging to a person’s well-being. Social impacts are a major concern because they involve costs and benefits that affect the wider society.
These impacts can be observed at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels (Fig. 1). Personal impacts involve those who gamble themselves, while interpersonal and community/societal impacts are those who are not gamblers. The social/community impacts are particularly dangerous because they can be hard to measure.
There are a number of ways to reduce the chances of developing a gambling addiction, including setting clear boundaries and limiting access to your money. You can also try to avoid using alcohol or other substances alongside gambling and keep your recreational activities at a healthy level. Lastly, it is important to take breaks from gambling. If you think you are struggling with a gambling addiction, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. The first step is acknowledging that you have a problem, and this can be extremely difficult for some people. However, there are a lot of organisations that can help you regain control of your life and stop the behaviour.