Public Health Implications of Gambling


Gambling is the act of placing a bet or stake on an event or game with the hope of winning money or other valuable prizes. Gambling can be a form of entertainment for some people, while for others it can become a serious addiction that causes financial and personal problems.

Although gambling is most often associated with risk taking and loss, it can have positive impacts on those who engage in it. Research has shown that it increases happiness levels by triggering the release of dopamine in the brain. In addition, it improves mental health by sharpening thinking skills and improving math and pattern recognition abilities. Furthermore, it offers an opportunity for socialization and can be a great source of entertainment for families and friends.

In general, the negative effects of gambling tend to be amplified in the media and are largely the result of pathological gambling (PG). However, many individuals who engage in non-strategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling, such as playing cards or slot machines, do not experience any significant problems. In contrast, males who participate in more strategic or face-to-face games of chance, such as blackjack or poker, may be more likely to develop PG.

While the negative impacts of gambling are commonly observed, few studies use a public health approach to examine the positive impacts of gambling. Such analyses would include a consideration of societal costs as well as direct financial costs to gamblers and their significant others.