Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event, where instances of strategy are discounted. It requires three elements: consideration, risk, and a prize. It may include activities such as playing lottery games, slot machines, scratch cards, and bets with friends. Some people gamble as a way to socialize or relieve boredom, while others are addicted and use it to escape from problems or depressed moods. The reward centers of our brain are affected by gambling, and many people have difficulty controlling their urges to gamble.
A person with a gambling disorder may experience any of the following symptoms: preoccupation with gambling; feelings of restlessness or irritability when trying to control their gambling behavior; attempting to regain losses by increased gambling; hiding the extent of their gambling from loved ones; and jeopardizing relationships, jobs, or education opportunities as a result of gambling. Personality traits and coexisting mental health conditions can also contribute to the development of gambling disorders.
The research described in this article was conducted using longitudinal data from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households with a resident aged 14 or older. Participants were interviewed by telephone about their gambling behaviors and their experiences with gambling. The survey included questions about a wide range of gambling formats, and participants were asked how often they engaged in each format over the course of a year. A variable was created to measure total money spent annually on a variety of gambling behaviors, and another to assess frequency of participation in various forms of gambling.
Other predictors of involvement in gambling were included in the regression models, including age, gender, and socioeconomic status. These variables were included to control for the possibility that these factors might be common antecedents of engaging in gambling, and to help explain the relationship between gambling behaviors and pathological gambling.
If you’re concerned about your or a loved one’s gambling habits, talk to your doctor. There are many treatment options available, including psychotherapy and medication. There are also support groups for people with gambling disorders. If your problem gambling is causing financial hardship, you can get free, confidential debt advice from StepChange. There’s also a link between gambling and thoughts of suicide, so if you feel unsafe, call 999 or visit A&E immediately.