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Public Health Impacts of Gambling

Gambling is the act of placing something of value (typically money) on an event that involves some element of chance and has a potential for a prize win. It is an ancient activity that has existed in most cultures and societies since prerecorded history. Today, more than 1 billion people around the world gamble each year. The vast majority of these individuals are not problem gamblers, but a small percentage develop gambling disorders, which are characterized by an inability to control their gambling behavior. Vulnerability to developing gambling problems is highest in young people and men.

Gambling can take place in many places, including casinos, racetracks, video game arcades, sports arenas and online. It is a social activity that often involves groups of friends and colleagues, and can be very fun in moderation. It can also teach people valuable skills such as patience and the ability to study patterns and numbers. It is important to note, however, that gambling can also negatively impact a person’s relationships and finances, health and work performance, and even his or her community.

Despite its importance to the global economy, very few studies have examined the impacts of gambling on society. Most studies focus on the negative costs of gambling, but examining only problem or pathological gambling misses the entire picture and underestimates gambling’s harms to society and individuals. In a public health approach, positive and negative impacts can be compared using the same methodology, such as quality-of-life weights (DWs). By doing so, a more complete picture of gambling’s impacts can be achieved.