How Gambling Affects Your Health and Wellbeing


Gambling is an activity in which you risk something of value, such as money or possessions, on the outcome of an event involving chance. It could be placing a bet on a football team to win a match, or buying a scratchcard and hoping for a winning combination of numbers. People gamble for a variety of reasons: the excitement of winning, socialising with friends, or escaping worries or stress. But gambling can also cause harm. It can affect your health and your relationships, reduce your performance at work or study, lead to debt or even homelessness. And it can be hard to stop.

You can find help and support if you have a problem with gambling. There are treatment services, self-help groups for families such as Gamblers Anonymous and a national helpline. You can also get help by talking to a trusted friend or family member, or going to a mental health service or GP. You can also try self-help tips, such as getting some physical exercise, postponing gambling until you feel better or attending a meeting of Gamblers Anonymous.

The main reason why people like to gamble is the adrenaline rush they get when they win money or prizes. This comes from the release of dopamine in their brain, which is a chemical that makes them feel pleasure. The brain can become addicted to this feeling, which is why people can find it difficult to stop gambling.

In the UK, over half of adults gamble. Many enjoy it, but for others it can have negative effects on their health and wellbeing, such as affecting their relationship with friends and family, their performance at work or study, or leaving them in serious debt. Problem gambling can also lead to self-harm or even suicide. Public Health England estimates that more than 400 suicides a year may be linked to gambling. Whether it’s gambling online in secret while your partner sleeps beside you, betting on football and losing everything or running up debts at a casino, problem gambling can be hard to overcome. But it’s possible to break the cycle, and there are inspiring stories of recovery such as former England footballer Tony Adams helping gamblers at his Sporting Chance clinic, or James Grimes, who lost everything and now helps other gambling addicts at his group The Big Step.

Many of the benefits and costs associated with gambling are intangible, and are often overlooked in economic analysis studies. These include the indirect and induced impacts, which are difficult to quantify in dollar terms. However, considerable progress has been made in developing methodologies for identifying and evaluating these intangible impacts, so that they are taken into account when making decisions about gambling policy (Gramlich, 1990:223).

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