Public Health Impacts of Gambling
Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value (such as money or property) on a game with a chance of winning or losing. Some forms of gambling include sports betting, casino games, and lottery games. Some governments prohibit the practice or regulate it. Other countries have legalized it. Regardless of its legal status, it has social and economic impacts on gamblers, their significant others, and the wider society. These impacts can be positive or negative, depending on the severity of gambling.
Gamblerism has been compared to drugs of abuse, with the same physical and psychological effects on the body. It has been found that the brain responds to gambling with a release of dopamine, which is similar to the pleasure experienced by drug users. This is why many people find it addictive and difficult to quit. In addition to causing emotional distress, the addiction can cause financial problems for the gambler and his or her family. In some cases, the problem can escalate to bankruptcy and homelessness.
While some experts have questioned whether pathological gambling is an addiction, the American Psychiatric Association has officially classified it as an impulse control disorder, similar to kleptomania and trichotillomania. It is also possible to treat gambling disorders with medication, though it is not always successful. Some people are helped by peer support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous.
In general, studies on gambling impacts have focused on monetary costs, and have used Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQL) weights to measure the burdens on an individual’s quality of life. However, examining only the negative aspects of gambling is misleading and may understate its impacts on society. In contrast, a public health approach examines both the costs and benefits of gambling.
Research on the economic impact of gambling has largely concentrated on its cost to the gambling industry and society, including the health care costs associated with problem gambling and its impact on employment. In contrast, a relatively small amount of research has been done on the social and emotional costs of gambling, especially those associated with the gamblers’ significant others.
These costs are primarily indirect, but they can have profound effects on the families of problem gamblers. Consequently, it is important that research on gambling impacts includes consideration of all aspects, especially those related to the gamblers’ significant others. The methodological challenges in assessing these costs and benefits are considerable. There are a number of key gaps in the literature, which must be filled to form a comprehensive understanding of gambling’s impacts. These gaps should be considered in developing public policy. In particular, a methodological framework that addresses the various levels of impacts should be developed, as this will facilitate the comparison of different studies. This will enable researchers and policymakers to make better decisions about which gambling policies would reduce costs and increase benefits. This is particularly critical in light of the fact that many gambling policies affect more than one level.
Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value (such as money or property) on a game with a chance of winning or losing. Some forms of gambling include sports betting, casino games, and lottery games. Some governments prohibit the practice or regulate it. Other countries have legalized it. Regardless of its legal…