The Concept of Harm in Gambling Research


Gambling is the act of betting on an event whose outcome is uncertain, in exchange for a prize. This prize can be money, goods, or services. It may be legal or illegal depending on the jurisdiction in which it is undertaken. There are several different types of gambling, including games such as poker, bingo, and keno, as well as more formal activities such as sports betting and horse racing. There are also non-formal activities such as dice and card games where the outcome is determined by chance, such as a game of rock, paper, scissors.

Some people gamble compulsively and experience severe gambling problems, causing serious harm to their lives, relationships, and careers. These problems can be psychological, emotional, financial, and even physical. Often, they are complex and co-occur with other harmful behaviours, such as substance abuse, depression, or poor health. These comorbidities can complicate the assessment and treatment of gambling disorders and make them more difficult to overcome.

In addition, some individuals are predisposed to gambling problems due to a variety of biological and environmental factors. Specifically, certain genetic and neurobiological conditions can increase the risk of developing a gambling disorder. The occurrence of these predisposed conditions in individuals can lead to increased vulnerability and heightened impulsivity and reward-seeking behaviours. Moreover, the presence of a mood disorder may also exacerbate gambling behaviour and impede recovery.

A key difficulty in assessing the prevalence of gambling related harms is the lack of a clear definition of harm. This is partly due to the fact that harms are largely subjective and vary across people, but also because of the range of disciplines involved in studying gambling-related problems. It is therefore not surprising that a robust definition of harm has not yet been developed.

Although there is some consensus on the concept of harm in gambling research, it is important to note that the term does not necessarily imply causation. As such, it is important to differentiate the notion of harm from a diagnostic criteria, symptoms, and risk factors for gambling. Using the term ‘harm’ as a broader construct allows for a more consistent and rigorous approach to measuring gambling-related harms, and can be used in conjunction with existing public health approaches to identifying health outcomes.

The current definition of harm is based on a public health framework that identifies harm as an outcome rather than a behavioural or diagnostic indicator. This will allow for the consideration of both direct and indirect harms of gambling, as well as comorbidities such as alcohol use, which can have a strong impact on gamblers.

The first step to overcoming a gambling problem is recognising that you have one. This can be a difficult step, especially if you’ve lost money or strained your relationships with family and friends. If you’re struggling with a gambling addiction, seek help immediately by reaching out to a therapist who can guide you through the recovery process. You can also join a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.