Whether you’re betting on a football match or buying scratchcards, gambling involves risking something of value in the hope of winning something else of value. The chance of winning or losing is determined by luck and not skill, for example, when you choose a team to bet on and they win, or by the numbers on your scratchcard. This makes it a form of addiction, which affects the way you think, feel and act. Gambling can harm physical and mental health, relationships, performance at work or study and leave people in serious debt or even homeless.
Research on gambling is generally limited, although there is some experimental research into the effects of different game structures and betting options (e.g., Cole and Hastie 1978; Zorn et al 1987; Mikesell and Klingberg 1987). Other studies have explored how legalisation of gambling can affect its prevalence in society (Rose 1995; Rose 1998; Ladouceur and Gaboury 1988). There is also some longitudinal research on the factors that moderate and exacerbate pathological gambling, although there are few integrated approaches to treatment for this disorder.
If you’re worried about your gambling habits, speak to a counsellor. It’s free and confidential. It can be hard to recognise if your gambling is out of control, especially if you have spent a lot of time and money on it. You may start to hide it from family and friends or lie about it. If you’re feeling tense and irritable, it might be time to stop.