Gambling – What is it and How Does it Affect You?


Gambling is when you place something of value – money, items or even time – on an event with a random outcome. You can bet on things like football matches or scratchcards. The risk is that if you are wrong, you lose the item or money that you placed. It is a popular activity, with significant impacts both on people who gamble and their friends, family and significant others, as well as society as a whole.

Problem gambling is defined as an activity that results in negative or harmful effects on the gambler’s life and those of their loved ones. It is a serious mental health issue that affects the way the brain sends chemical messages and can lead to extreme changes in behaviour, including a distorted perception of risk. It is now considered an addiction akin to substance misuse and is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as ‘pathological gambling’.

There is no single reason why people start to develop a gambling problem. Various theories include mood change and the euphoria that is associated with winning – which can be linked to a release of dopamine in the brain. Other factors include boredom susceptibility, impulsivity, a poor understanding of random events and the use of gambling as escape from stressful or depressive life experiences.

There are many different types of gambling, from lottery tickets and video games to board games and sports betting. It is important that all of these activities are regulated in order to minimise the risks to vulnerable people.