Pathological Gambling

Gambling involves wagering something of value on a random event with the intention of winning something else of value. It requires three elements: consideration, risk, and a prize. Although most individuals gamble without any problems, a small percentage become excessively involved in gambling and experience substantial negative personal, family, and financial effects. This is referred to as pathological gambling.

The risk for developing a gambling disorder increases with age and is more common in men than in women. Vulnerability is also greater among low-income people, who are more likely to have more to gain with a large win, and young people. The risk of becoming a problem gambler is also higher for those who have depression, anxiety or other mood disorders. It is important to seek treatment for these underlying conditions before attempting to overcome a gambling problem.

Those who gamble often engage in other risky activities to compensate for their losses, such as using drugs or alcohol and engaging in other forms of illegal activity. It is important for governments to identify and target the groups most at risk. In addition, they need to address the costs and benefits of gambling, including economic factors such as real costs versus financial transfers, tangible and intangible effects, present and future values (i.e., discounting), and direct and indirect costs. It is also important to examine the social and psychological costs of gambling, such as family distress caused by pathological gambling or the loss of productivity at work by employees who are problem gamblers.