The term ‘harm’ has been used in different ways in the literature, and it is therefore difficult to measure or compare the harms caused by gambling. This is partly because the word ‘harm’ has been used as a synonym for damage, and partly because it is used to refer to consequences of gambling (either directly or indirectly), rather than to the behaviour itself. This ambiguity is compounded by the fact that people who experience problems with gambling often experience multiple types of harms, and these may change over time.
It is therefore important to have a clear definition of the phenomenon of gambling, so that research and interventions can be based on a consistent and evidence-based approach. This paper will provide a functional definition of gambling related harm which can be operationalised to support the measurement of gambling related harm in line with standard epidemiological protocols used in public health. It will also identify a taxonomy of harms experienced by the person who gambles, their affected others and their communities, consistent with social models of health.
Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event, where instances of strategy are discounted. The bet is placed for the potential to win a prize, which can be anything from money to goods and services. While gambling is often associated with casinos, it can also occur at other venues such as racetracks, bars, restaurants and on the internet. It can be done by individuals or groups.
A range of studies have indicated that there are negative consequences associated with gambling, and that these effects can be exacerbated by certain personal characteristics and environmental factors. Many of these consequences are grouped into categories such as financial, family or interpersonal, emotional and psychological, and occupational.
Attempts to measure the impact of gambling have focused on behavioural symptoms, but symptomatology has not proved to be a reliable method for measuring harmful behaviour. This has been particularly problematic when attempting to assess gambling disorder, as a variety of behavioural indicators are used, and it can be difficult to distinguish between them.
If you are struggling with a problem, it is important to seek help. Talk to a counsellor, who can offer you free and confidential advice. You can also try to find healthier ways of relieving unpleasant feelings, such as by exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or learning relaxation techniques. You could also join a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step recovery program modelled on Alcoholics Anonymous. The key to recovering from a gambling addiction is building a strong support network, so make sure you reach out to your loved ones. You can also try joining a community group, such as a book club or sports team. There are also organisations that specialise in assisting people with gambling issues, such as the Australian Council on Problem Gambling. If you are suffering from gambling addiction and need help, get in touch with us.