Gambling is an activity where someone risks money or belongings in the hope of winning something of value. The key elements of gambling are consideration, risk and a prize. It can be played in many ways, from buying a Lotto ticket to betting on sports events or using the pokies. Some forms of gambling involve skill and knowledge, while others are more random and luck based. The earliest evidence of gambling dates back to ancient China, where tiles have been found that appear to be the earliest known form of a game of chance.
Problem gambling is a serious issue that can affect people of all ages, genders and social classes. However, there are some people who are more likely to have a gambling problem than others. These include young people, those who are in poor health and those with a family history of gambling or other addictive behaviours.
Those who have a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, are also more at risk of harmful gambling. They may gamble as a way to self-soothe their feelings, to distract themselves or to pass time. In some cases, harmful gambling can lead to debt. If you are in this situation, StepChange can offer free and confidential debt advice.
The concept of harm is one of the most important aspects of the definition of problem gambling. It is essential to understand that harm is a continuum and can occur at different levels, including the person who gambles, their close relationships and the wider community.
While there is no single internationally agreed-upon definition of harm, there are consistent patterns of interpretation across the literature. This suggests that there is some convergence in the understanding of gambling-related harm.
Harm is an important concept because it indicates the negative consequences of gambling behaviours, and identifies that these impacts can be more severe for some people than others. In terms of public health approaches to gambling, there is a clear need for a more precise and consistent definition of harm.
Developing a better understanding of the causes of harm can help to improve prevention and treatment. The research has shown that there are a range of contributing factors, such as:
If you are concerned about your own gambling or that of a friend or family member, there are steps you can take to help. The first step is to get support. Talk to a counsellor or try a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Having a strong support network can make all the difference when you are struggling with an addiction. This can be particularly helpful when you have children, as it can give you strength and reassurance that you are not alone in your struggle. You can also strengthen your support network by finding healthier and more productive ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as taking up a new hobby or going out with friends who don’t gamble. It is also a good idea to set boundaries in managing money, to ensure that you don’t find yourself at the mercy of a loved one’s impulses to gamble.