Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value on the outcome of a game or event that involves chance or skill. It is an activity that provides entertainment and fun and can be done by individuals of all ages. It can include sports betting, lottery games, casino games and other forms of gambling. In general, gamblers are happy when they win but not when they lose. This is because their brains are stimulated by the activity and their body produces adrenaline and endorphins which make them feel happy and uplifted. This is why many people gamble even though they know it can lead to addiction and financial problems.

Research has shown that there are negative impacts of gambling on the bettor as well as those closest to them. These impacts are observed at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels. The personal level impacts involve visible and invisible costs that gamblers experience, such as the effects of problem gambling or the impact of a hefty loss on their lifestyle. The interpersonal level impacts are the effects on those close to a gambler, such as friends and family. The community/society level impacts are the external monetary and non-monetary costs associated with gambling, such as the impact on quality of life and social capital, which have been less emphasised in research.

A number of factors can contribute to a person’s inclination toward gambling, including the desire for rewards and the ability to control spending. Some studies have found that a person’s genetic predispositions can also play a role in their vulnerability to gambling-related disorders. Regardless of the causes, compulsive and excessive gambling is a serious mental health disorder that can result in serious consequences.

Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors. It is estimated that 0.4-1.6% of Americans meet the criteria for PG. The onset of PG often occurs in adolescence or young adulthood and can persist for years. PG is more common in men than in women, and adolescent and young adults appear to be at higher risk for developing PG than older people.

While the underlying causes of PG are complex, there are some clear warning signs to watch for: lying to others about your gambling habits, relying on other people to fund your activities, putting your financial situation at risk and ignoring other activities to gamble. It is important to recognise these risks and seek help if you have any of them. If you are concerned that your gambling is causing harm, you can talk to a GP or call the National Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858. They can help you stop or reduce your gambling behaviour. They can also help you access treatment if needed. You can find more information and resources on the Gambling Helpline website. You can also access support via the Lifeline website. This service is free and confidential. You can contact them at any time of the day or night, and they will be able to help you.