Gambling involves risking money or something else of value on a event with an uncertain outcome in order to win a prize. This can be done legally in many countries, but is also illegal. Gambling is considered an impulse control disorder and is included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5). People with gambling disorders often experience depression, anxiety, and poor mental health. They may also experience problems with their family and finances. Symptoms of gambling disorders can begin in adolescence or later in life. They may include a loss of interest in other activities, excessive gambling, and impulsive behavior.
Longitudinal studies have been difficult to mount, largely due to the massive funding required for multiyear commitments; difficulty in maintaining a research team over a lengthy period; and challenges with data collection that confound aging and period effects (e.g., is a person’s increased gambling activity due to age or the opening of a new casino?)
Some studies have examined positive impacts at personal and interpersonal levels. For example, it has been found that gamblers report a greater sense of personal well-being than nongamblers. It is also believed that for low socioeconomic groups, the hope of a small win can be a vital way to sustain optimism.
Other studies have focused on the economic effects of gambling. These have included examining gambling revenues, impacts on tourism and other industries, and the costs of implementing gambling facilities. These studies have also examined negative economic effects, such as changes in work performance, a decrease in the number of available jobs, and increases in shop rents and operating costs for businesses that are located close to casinos.
Social and community level impacts have received less attention, but are important to consider. These impacts can be seen on a person’s own quality of life, on that of their significant others, and on the community as a whole. They can be measured by incorporating health-related quality of life weights (DW), which measure the burden on a person’s ability to perform daily tasks.
Those who have trouble controlling their gambling tend to use a variety of strategies to try to overcome their problem. Some of these strategies are behavioral, while others are cognitive and behavioural. Although some of these interventions may be effective, it is important for those with a gambling problem to seek evaluation and treatment from a clinical professional who can provide a detailed assessment of their individual needs. The person will need to be willing to seek help and address issues such as family dynamics, education, finances, legal issues, and their professional situation. This will ensure that the treatment plan is suitable to the specific needs of the person. This is particularly true for individuals with pathological gambling. Newer findings in neuroscience are helping to understand why certain gambling treatments fail. The findings could one day lead to more effective therapies for compulsive gambling.