Gambling is an activity that involves risking something of value on an event that is determined, at least in part, by chance. This could be placing a bet on a football team to win a game or buying a scratchcard. It can also include games such as bingo, betting on office pools or playing the lottery. Regardless of how the gamble is undertaken, it is the intention to gain something of value (a reward) from the event that is the key element of gambling.

A gambling addiction is a serious mental health issue. It can have a profoundly negative impact on a person’s life, including work and relationships. If you think you may have a gambling problem, it’s important to seek help from a professional. Depending on the severity of your addiction, you might need an inpatient treatment programme. Alternatively, you might benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy, which teaches you to challenge irrational beliefs and habits. You might also need to address underlying mood disorders, such as depression or stress. If you’re struggling financially, you can speak to a debt advisor at StepChange for free and confidential advice.

The first thematic classification of harms identified was financial harms. These harms included the consumption of gambling products to the point that they depleted surplus income or resources, and the reliance on these products to manage short term cash flow issues.

Another important thematic group of harms identified was those relating to relationships. These included harms to people who gamble, and to the wider community. In the early stages, it was found that the crisis point at which a person who gambles sought assistance or treatment often was triggered by damage to a significant relationship.

It is worth noting that the definition of harms adopted here is different from those that have been used in the literature, such as the conflation of the harm and the behaviour (gambling) used to cause it. This distinction is important, as it moves away from a pathogenic approach to one that is consistent with standard public health models of harm.

In addition, this definition of harms includes those that are experienced in legacy and intergenerational time frames – thus demonstrating that gambling related harm is not limited to a person’s experience at the diagnostic point of problem gambling or only whilst they are engaging in the behaviour. This is a critical shift that allows for the measurement of gambling related harms using public health approaches, and acknowledges that impacts can occur at any stage of a person’s engagement with gambling. Further, it recognises that gambling related harm can be exacerbated by a variety of factors. These include comorbidities, as well as socio-economic and cultural factors.