Gambling – What is it and How Can it Affect You?

Gambling is the wagering of something of value, such as money or possessions, on an event of chance with an intention to win a prize. It includes games of chance where the outcome depends on a random event, such as the roll of a dice or the spin of a slot machine, but excludes business transactions based on contracts (like buying stocks or securities) and the purchase of insurance.

People can gamble for entertainment, fun or to relieve stress, but it can also harm their health and relationships, cause problems at work or study and lead to debt and homelessness. In fact, Public Health England estimates that around half a million people in the UK are living with gambling problems.

Problem gambling is more common among men than women, and it tends to start in adolescence or early adulthood. PG is associated with increased suicide risk, and can have devastating effects on family and friends. It may also interfere with work, school or social activities, and lead to a loss of self-esteem.

In the US, about 4% of Americans meet diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling, and as many as 2% are at high risk. The DSM-5 has reclassified this disorder as a behavioral addiction due to its similarity to substance-related disorders in clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity, and treatment (Petry, 2005).

There are a number of ways to help with gambling issues, from support groups to counselling. A key step is to recognise that gambling is a harmful activity, and make a commitment to stop. Other helpful steps are to set limits on how much and for how long you’ll gamble, and not spend more than you can afford to lose. Also, don’t chase your losses – this will only increase your chances of future gambling problems.

There’s a strong link between mental health and gambling. If you’re feeling depressed, or having thoughts about suicide, call 999 or visit A&E immediately. If you’re in debt, speak to a specialist at StepChange for free and confidential advice. You can also get help with budgeting and credit management by contacting your local Citizens Advice Bureau. It’s also important to have a strong support network, and to take part in other activities that you enjoy, like volunteering, joining a book club or sports team, taking an education class, or even travelling.

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