Gambling Disorders – What Are the Consequences of Gambling?


The wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value, where instances of strategy are discounted. It is a behaviour that has been associated with various negative consequences. These include increased debt and financial stress, impaired health and well-being, social distancing, family problems, substance use and even homicide. These adverse outcomes have led to a significant change in the way that gambling and gambling disorders are understood. Today, they are recognised as mental health issues – rather than being seen as a sign of recreational interest, poor judgment, or moral turpitude.

The reason why gambling can become problematic is because of how it affects the brain. Gambling activates the reward system, just as alcohol and some drugs do. The more an individual gambles, the more the reward system becomes stimulated and this can lead to a vicious cycle, where the person keeps gambling in the hope that they will get back to feeling good. This is a similar process to how a person develops a tolerance to alcohol, where they continue to drink despite the detrimental effects.

Another issue with gambling is that it can make people feel like they are in control, and the fact that a person has control over how much they are spending and when they are playing can give them a false sense of security. This can encourage them to keep gambling, despite the harm it is doing to their health and the welfare of others. This is because of a concept called partial reinforcement. Partial reinforcement happens when a person realises that their actions don’t always cause a positive outcome (such as winning money) but they also realise that they won’t always cause a negative outcome (such as losing money). This encourages them to keep doing the behaviour because they expect to be reinforced some of the time.

This pattern can lead to a lot of stress for the person doing the gambling, and in some cases it can be hard for them to recognise that their gambling is getting out of hand. If this is the case, they may start hiding their activities or lie about them. This can cause a lot of damage to a person and their family, so it is important that if this does happen, help is available.

There are a number of different impacts that gambling can have on people and these can be grouped into three categories: costs and benefits. The costs and benefits are viewed at personal, interpersonal, and community/society levels. The personal and interpersonal impacts involve other people such as family members, friends and work colleagues. The community/society level impacts are broader and include things such as the effect of gambling on local businesses, the impact on tourism, and changes in infrastructure cost or value. These are often measured using health-related quality of life (HRQL) weights, known as disability weights. This enables us to measure the impact on an individual’s quality of life and to compare these with other impacts, such as those caused by alcohol.