Gambling involves risking something of value, such as money or property, on an event whose outcome is determined by chance. This can happen in many ways, including by playing casino games, sports betting or lottery games. Gambling is a form of entertainment for some people, but it can also be a serious addiction that leads to financial and personal problems.
The economic costs of gambling are difficult to calculate, but they include both direct and indirect expenses. The indirect costs involve the emotional distress and other losses suffered by family members of pathological gamblers, as well as productivity losses incurred by coworkers who are gambling addicts. The direct costs of gambling include the cost of lost earnings and the amount of debt incurred by gamblers.
Some studies estimate that 20 percent of bankruptcy cases are related to gambling. However, the data is often region-specific and anecdotal, making it difficult to determine a precise figure. In one such study, researchers examined the records of 105 gamblers who filed for bankruptcy. They found that these individuals owed an average of $40,000 in unsecured debt and possessed an average of eight credit cards. The average gambling-related bankruptcy lasted approximately seven months.
There is no one cause of gambling addiction, but several factors can increase a person’s risk. These include age, sex and the influence of friends or family. Generally, young men are more likely to develop gambling addictions than younger women. People who start gambling at a young age are more likely to become addicted, but compulsive gambling can occur in people of any age.
Many people turn to gambling to self-soothe unpleasant feelings or to relieve boredom, and the prospect of a big win can be very tempting. However, there are healthier and more effective ways to do so, such as exercise, socializing with non-gambling friends or practicing relaxation techniques.
If you or a loved one has a problem with gambling, seek help from a therapist who specializes in treating compulsive behavior. BetterHelp is an online service that matches you with licensed, accredited therapists who can help with anxiety, depression, relationships and more. To get started, take our assessment and get matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours.