Gambling Addiction


Gambling is an activity where you risk something of value, such as money or material goods, on an uncertain outcome. You might place a bet on the outcome of a sporting event or a game of chance, such as the roll of a dice or a spin of a roulette wheel. Although gambling is a popular form of recreation and is often legal, it can be problematic when it becomes an addiction. Gambling addiction has been described as a global health problem and can affect people from all walks of life.

The causes of gambling addiction are complex and can vary from person to person. However, psychological factors such as low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, and a history of trauma have been linked to pathological gambling. Gambling problems also seem to be more common among adolescents and after a significant life event, such as the death of a loved one.

Historically, gambling has been seen as immoral and illegal. However, over the past few decades there has been a shift in understanding of the cause and nature of gambling problems. Individuals who experience negative consequences from gambling are now considered to have psychological issues, similar to how alcoholics are understood. This change has been reflected in, or stimulated by, the development of new diagnostic criteria for gambling disorder in recent editions of the DSM (the medical book that defines mental disorders).

Gambling can be a fun and social activity but it is important to balance your time with other activities, including friends, family and work. If you gamble, set a limit on how much you want to spend and leave when you reach that amount, whether you have won or lost. Avoid borrowing to fund your gambling and do not gamble when you are depressed, upset or in pain. Remember that the odds are against you, so expect to lose some money.

If you have a friend or family member who has a gambling problem, reach out to them for support. They may feel isolated and believe they are the only one who has this issue, but it is important to know that others have experienced the same thing. It is helpful to join a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows the model of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Researchers used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to investigate antecedents of gambling behaviour. Participants aged 17 and 24 years completed computer-administered gambling surveys at research clinics or online. Missing data were imputed using a variety of techniques, and univariable analyses showed that non-responders at age 17, 20 and 24 years were more likely to be male and from poorer social backgrounds with lower education levels than those who answered all three surveys. Univariable analyses of a number of predictor variables found that children from families with a parent who gambled regularly were more likely to be regular gamblers themselves, as were children living in council houses (British social housing built by local authorities). Other predictors include being exposed to gambling advertising, having a high external locus of control and experiencing depression or anxiety.