Gambling involves placing a bet on an event that is based largely on chance, such as a football match or scratchcard. Players choose what they want to bet on and are matched to the odds – which are the chances of winning a prize – by betting companies. The odds are usually displayed in a format such as 5/1 or 2/1.
It is possible to get addicted to gambling, but it’s not impossible to break the habit. The first step is to recognize that there’s a problem, and then take steps to address it. Taking action can include seeking professional help, joining a support group, and finding other activities to fill the void.
While gambling is often seen as a fun, social activity, it has major impacts on the gambler, their family and friends, as well as the community. These impacts can be observed at the personal, interpersonal and society/community level (Fig. 1).
Interpersonal and society/community impact is a challenge to measure because of the difficulty of measuring non-monetary benefits and costs. For these reasons, most studies have focused on economic costs and benefits, which are much easier to quantify than social impacts.
The good news is that people can beat the urge to gamble by strengthening their support network, finding other ways to spend time with friends, and setting boundaries around money management. They can also try using tools like distractors and self-talk to counter the urge, or even seek professional help if they haven’t already.