Gambling is a type of recreational activity where participants place bets on events or outcomes that are uncertain. It is a form of entertainment that can include sports betting, casino games and horse racing. In some countries, gambling is illegal or heavily regulated. It can also be a source of income for the government. In a regulated environment, the profits generated by gambling can be used for public services, such as infrastructure or health care. In addition, it provides jobs for hosts, hostesses, dealers, software developers and designers, pit bosses and people in catering, accounting and security.
Gambling can lead to addiction. A person who becomes addicted to gambling may develop serious mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety. In some cases, compulsive gambling can lead to physical symptoms, such as insomnia or headaches. Additionally, gambling can cause financial problems and exacerbate existing debt or other legal issues. Ultimately, it can lead to bankruptcy and homelessness.
The risk of gambling addiction increases with age, and women are more likely to develop a problem than men. A person’s family history and personality also influence their chances of developing a gambling problem. If someone has a coexisting mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, they are more likely to become addicted to gambling.
Some people gamble as a way to socialize with friends, unwind after a stressful day or to relieve boredom. However, there are healthier ways to relieve these feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not approve any medications to treat gambling disorder, but psychotherapy can help a person identify unhealthy emotions and thoughts and change their behaviors. Psychotherapy includes a variety of treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. It can be done individually or in groups, and it is usually led by a licensed mental health professional.
Many studies of gambling have emphasized economic costs and benefits, which are easily quantifiable. However, it is important to consider the social impacts of gambling, which are harder to quantify and often ignored. Williams et al.  define a social impact as a cost or benefit that aggregates societal real wealth and is not personally incurred or exploited by any individual.
Social impacts can occur at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels (Fig. 1). Typically, the effects at the personal and interpersonal levels affect those who are close to a gambler, including family members, friends and coworkers. The impacts at the community/society level, such as escalating debt and loss of employment, can have significant negative effects on the well-being of the gambler and his or her family members. This can also lead to increased crime rates and a decrease in societal wealth.