Generally, gambling is viewed as a continuum ranging from casual and recreational activities to problem gambling and pathological gambling. In the latter case, individuals gamble in an attempt to win something of value. While some people might be motivated by a desire to win money, others might use gambling as an escape from a bad situation or to satisfy their need for social interaction.
In addition to its positive and negative impacts on the individual, gambling also creates societal and public benefits and costs. A number of studies have documented the economic and social benefits and costs of gambling, but only a limited amount has been conducted on its positive impacts. These impacts have been categorized into three classes: personal, interpersonal, and community/society level.
Gambling has been associated with social inequality. Higher-income households spend more on gambling, while lower-income households lose more income on gambling. This is partly because more consumers gamble more often than others. However, there are still a number of gaps in our knowledge about gambling, which is essential in forming a balanced evidence base about its impacts.
Gambling has been linked with a number of harmful impacts, including decreased productivity, job losses, and reduced performance. Some of these impacts are direct and others are indirect. In many cases, gambling has caused increased demand for social services. For example, it has been reported that increased availability of gambling opportunities leads to increased problem gambling rates. Similarly, new forms of gambling have been found to have a negative impact on charitable gambling revenues.
Some gambling harms can affect other members of the community, such as family members, neighbors, and friends. These costs are referred to as invisible costs and are difficult to recognize. They may not become visible until these persons seek help, at which time these costs become observable.
Some of these invisible costs are monetary in nature. In particular, small businesses are especially vulnerable to problems with shop rents, staff retention, inflation, and casino expansion. This is because they are more dependent on gambling revenues.
On the other hand, gambling can create a positive social impact, as it can provide an additional leisure activity for people. Some studies have found that gambling can reduce boredom and enhance seniors’ self-concepts. Other studies have found that recreational gamblers reported better health than nongamblers. Several studies have found that gambling can reinforce a person’s self-concepts, especially in lower socioeconomic groups.
Whether gambling has a negative or positive impact on society depends on a variety of factors, including the nature of the activity, its availability, and its costs. These effects can vary from generation to generation. They can also change the life course of an individual.
Gambling has been studied as an example of a public health issue, primarily through the use of the cost-of-illness approach. This method is widely used in alcohol and drug research. It aims to quantify the monetary and nonmonetary harms associated with an illness and assign value to those harms.