Gambling and Harm


Gambling is any activity in which money or items of value are staked on the outcome of an event that involves chance, such as a football match or scratchcard. It can be conducted in many ways, including betting with friends, playing card games for a small amount of cash, or buying lottery tickets. There are and have always been professional gamblers who earn a living from gambling.

Gambling can be an enjoyable pastime, but it is a risky activity that can cause serious harm. It can affect physical and mental health, relationships, performance at work or study, and lead to debt. It can also contribute to suicide. People who gamble can also experience problems with alcohol and drugs.

The research team gathered data from semi-structured interviews (n = 25) with people who had experienced harm caused by gambling. They were recruited using advertisements on social media, and interviewed in person or over the telephone. Participants identified themselves as a person who gambled, affected others or both a person who gambled and an affected other. The research was conducted in two stages: a qualitative phase and a quantitative phase. The qualitative phase consisted of a series of focus groups and individual interviews, which averaged between 30 and 90 minutes in length. This allowed the researchers to gather in-depth information from a wide range of participants, from many different locations and backgrounds. The data from this phase were used to develop the conceptual framework for gambling related harm. It identifies the three levels of harm experienced by a person who gambles, their affected others and the wider community. It is different from previous pathogenic definitions of harm and is grounded in a public health approach, which will allow it to be operationalised and measured in future studies that are consistent with standard measures of health outcomes.