The Positive and Negative Impacts of Gambling

Gambling is a popular pastime that involves the risk of losing money or something of value in an attempt to win money. It can be done in a variety of ways, such as through scratchcards, fruit machines or betting with friends. It can have negative impacts on gamblers and their significant others, as well as society as a whole. These negative effects include increased debt and social isolation, as well as problems with health, relationships and work. However, gambling also has positive aspects and contributes to society in a number of ways, including stimulating economic growth, providing entertainment, supporting public services and fostering cognitive skills.

Problem gamblers often have genetic or psychological predispositions that make them more likely to become addicted to it, which can cause dramatic alterations in the way the brain sends chemical messages. They may also have a tendency to be impulsive and have difficulty judging the long-term consequences of their actions. This combination of factors makes them more likely to become trapped in a vicious cycle of losses and increases in their investment in gambling, in an attempt to ‘make up’ for previous losses.

In addition, people are more sensitive to losses than gains of equal value. Losing a PS10 note generates a more prominent emotional response than finding PS10. This is why some gamblers are so compelled to keep playing, upping their bets in an attempt to ‘win back’ lost money and try and alleviate their disappointment or frustration. This is known as partial reinforcement and it is a key factor in why gambling becomes addictive.

Gamblers may also hide their gambling activities from their significant others or lie about how much they gamble, believing that other people will not understand or that they will surprise them with a big win. They may also feel compelled to gamble when they are feeling bored or lonely, hoping that it will help them relieve these feelings and give them some excitement. However, there are healthier and more effective ways to relieve unpleasant emotions, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends or practicing relaxation techniques.

The negative and positive impacts of gambling can be grouped into three classes: personal, interpersonal and societal. Personal impacts induce effects on a personal level for the gambler themselves, while interpersonal and societal/community levels influence those who are close to the gambler, such as family members and colleagues. Some of these impacts, such as increased debt and financial stress, can exacerbate into serious problems and even bankruptcy, which can affect not only the individual gambler but their families and wider society as a whole. Therefore, it is essential to consider these impacts when developing gambling policies. Using a health-related quality of life (HRQL) weighting approach, this article explores the social and societal costs and benefits associated with gambling, focusing on the impact it has on gamblers and their significant others, and society as a whole. It also discusses how these can be measured in order to inform gambling policy development.


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