Gambling is the act of wagering something of value (usually money) on an event that has a random outcome, with the hope of winning a larger prize. People can place bets on games such as slots, roulette, blackjack, horse racing, dog races, sports events, lottery tickets and dice. Gambling contributes a significant percentage of the GDP in countries all over the world, and many people are employed in the gambling industry.
While some people enjoy gambling as a pastime, it can become addictive. Research shows that the act of placing bets feeds certain brain receptors, triggering a pleasure response. This may explain why some people are unable to stop playing. In addition, people who gamble can end up in debt and even lose their homes. Several factors can contribute to problem gambling, including age, culture, personality and genetic predisposition.
Problem gamblers can be harmful to their personal and financial well-being, relationships and family, and work performance, as well as cause harm to their communities. Mental health professionals have developed criteria that help them identify problematic gambling. The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists Gambling Disorder alongside other addictive behaviours.
Longitudinal studies are the best way to understand how gambling affects individuals, but they are often difficult to conduct due to funding and logistical issues. There are also challenges with retaining researchers over a long time period and confounding effects of age and period.