Gambling is a form of risk-taking whereby people bet money or other items of value on the outcome of a random event. It may be undertaken with the intention of winning a prize, or for social entertainment. It is a common activity, but it can have negative consequences. It is estimated that about 10 trillion dollars is gambled each year worldwide, with much of it done legally.
Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors. PG is often seen in conjunction with substance abuse disorders and appears to have high comorbidity with personality disorders. It usually starts in adolescence or young adulthood and is more prevalent among males than females. It is more likely to affect people who engage in strategic or “face-to-face” forms of gambling, such as poker or blackjack, than those who participate in nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive activities, such as slot machines or bingo. The prevalence of PG in the general population appears to be about 0.4%-1.6% and increases with age.
It is important to recognize the warning signs of problem gambling. If you have concerns, talk to a health professional or call a helpline for advice. If you are a parent or caregiver of a child, try to limit his or her access to gambling machines, the lottery, scratchy cards, and sports bets. Instead, encourage healthy extracurricular activities to help them manage boredom and stress.
You should also ensure that your child has access to a healthy support system and has other ways to cope with stress and depression, such as exercise, friends, school or work, and volunteering for a worthwhile cause. It is also important to set boundaries with your child’s management of money and to avoid letting him or her use credit cards for gambling purposes. You should also consider taking over the family finances to ensure that your child is not spending more than he or she can afford to lose.
Longitudinal studies can help researchers to understand the onset, development, and maintenance of both normal and problem gambling behavior. However, there are a number of practical barriers to the conduct of longitudinal studies in this area: financial, logistical, and ethical considerations; the difficulty of maintaining research team continuity over a long period of time; and the fact that longitudinal data are subject to aging and period effects.
Having a good support system is an important part of dealing with gambling problems, and it is particularly helpful for those who have families or other loved ones struggling with gambling addiction. You can seek help from a therapist or counselor, your GP or health care provider, or you can reach out to a gambling helpline like the Australian Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858, or the Gambler’s Help Youthline on 1800 262 376, or Lifeline on 131 114. If you are a gambler who is concerned about your gambling habits, you can also seek help through peer support groups like Gamblers Anonymous or GamCare.