Health Effects of Gambling

Gambling is the wagering of something of value (money or other objects) on a random event, such as a football game, a lottery drawing or a scratchcard. A player is expected to win some prize if they win, but there are no guarantees and the outcome is completely unpredictable.

Gambling involves the use of luck, skill and chance and is a popular pastime for many people worldwide. However, gambling can have a negative impact on a person’s health and well-being. It can affect relationships with family and friends, work performance and studies. It can also lead to financial problems and homelessness. In some cases, it can lead to serious mental illness such as depression or anxiety. It can also result in addiction to gambling, which is called problem gambling or pathological gambling.

In the United States, 2.5 million adults (1%) meet the criteria for a gambling disorder. In addition, an additional 5-8 million Americans experience mild to moderate gambling problems. These problems can include secretive behavior, lying about how much one is betting, frequent urges to gamble, and spending more and more money. They can also interfere with work, school or other activities, and cause sleep disturbances.

While gambling is often portrayed in movies and television as an exciting and glamorous activity, it is not always that way. It is a risky and addictive hobby that can have major negative effects on the health of an individual. Many individuals are at risk of developing a gambling problem, regardless of their economic status, social standing or education level. A variety of factors can contribute to a person’s susceptibility to developing a gambling problem, including genetics, environment and medical history.

Some people gamble for a fun and entertaining activity, while others do it to socialize with friends or other people they know. Others may do it for the rush of winning and feeling a sense of achievement after they have won. People also gamble to meet other needs, such as a desire for power and control, or as an outlet for stress or boredom.

People who have a gambling addiction are at risk for a range of negative health effects, and there is an increasing need for generalist physicians to be aware of these issues. This article will review some of the current data concerning gambling and its associations with nongambling health issues, discuss screening strategies for problem and pathological gambling, and suggest a role for generalist physicians in assessing their patients’ gamblers’ health and wellbeing. The article draws on the literature available in MEDLINE (from 1966 to present) and using the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) textword “gambling.” It includes a summary of selected articles that are pertinent to this topic.