The Social and Health Impacts of Gambling



Gambling is the act of wagering something of value on an event whose outcome is determined at least in part by chance. It occurs in many real-world places, such as casinos and horse racetracks, and also in virtual venues, like online gambling sites. It is a common activity for adolescents and adults. However, a small number of individuals develop pathological gambling, an impulse control disorder that can lead to significant financial, occupational, and family problems.

Most people who gamble do so recreationally and without problems. However, a significant minority of people, especially those with low incomes, are more susceptible to developing problem gambling. This risk is highest among young people and men. The disorder is diagnosed according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Some research has shown that people who gamble often do so as a way to self-soothe unpleasant emotions or relieve boredom. In addition, some people may use gambling as a way to socialize with friends. However, there are healthier and safer ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.

Most studies of gambling have focused on its economic impacts, which are easily quantified. Fewer studies have examined its social and health impacts, which are difficult to quantify. However, social impact estimates can help policymakers compare different gambling policies and assess their benefits or costs. These estimates are based on a model that classifies benefits and costs into three classes: financial, labor and health, and well-being.