Gambling is when you risk something of value (like money or a prize) in order to predict the outcome of an event that relies on chance, like betting on a football match or playing the pokies. If you’re right, you win; if you’re wrong, you lose. The good news is that if you gamble responsibly, you can have fun and maybe even make some money. But if you have a problem with gambling, it can harm your health, relationships and work or study performance. It can also lead to serious debt and even homelessness. So here’s everything you need to know about gambling: what it is, how it works, the risks and how to get help if you’re worried about your own gambling or that of someone close to you.

Why do we gamble?

For many people, gambling is just a way to have some fun and socialise with friends. It can be played alone, but it’s often much more enjoyable with a group of people at the casino or on a horse race. It can also be a way to improve your social skills by learning to read other people’s body language and developing tactics in games like blackjack. Gambling can also be a great way to improve your math and critical thinking skills, as well as your pattern recognition.

Some research suggests that gambling can have positive effects on society. For example, it can help to boost economic growth by providing a new source of revenue. It can also provide jobs for bookmakers, croupiers and racing stewards. However, the vast majority of gambling is harmful to society. It can cause mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, and may affect your quality of life. It can also lead to financial problems, such as bankruptcies and foreclosures, as well as strained relationships. It can also increase the likelihood of crime, as it can encourage risk-taking behaviours.

Problem gambling can cause direct harms to individuals, their families and their communities. It is a major public health issue that has significant impacts at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels. Many studies have focused on only the monetary costs, which are easy to measure, but this is a limited view of gambling’s impact.

The indirect harms of gambling are just as important. In addition to the obvious financial impact, it can cause problems with relationships, employment, study or performance at work and can lead to debt or even homelessness. It can also contribute to the development of other psychiatric disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder. In addition, it can have negative impacts on children and young adults. These impacts are described as ‘societal externalities’. Using a public health approach, it is important to consider all harms associated with gambling, whether they are monetary or non-monetary. In particular, it is essential to include the cost of co-occurring psychiatric disorders when assessing gambling’s impacts on society. In this way, we can ensure that we are examining the true costs and benefits of this activity.