Gambling involves betting money or other items of value on a random event that could yield a prize ranging from a small amount to a life-changing jackpot. It is a common activity for people to engage in, but it can be very risky. People who have trouble controlling their gambling behavior may have a problem. It is important to know that there are effective treatment options for people who have a gambling problem.
There are many types of gambling. Some involve placing a bet on an event, such as a football game or the results of a scratchcard. The gambler then matches the bet to ‘odds’ set by the betting company, which tell them how much they could win if they win their bet. Then the person makes a decision on whether to place the bet, and if they do, they will then have to decide what to bet on.
Although it is difficult to pin down exact prevalence numbers, research has shown that at least 4% of the population may have gambling problems. Moreover, pathological gambling often co-occurs with other psychiatric disorders and is highly correlated with substance abuse (DSM-IV).
Longitudinal studies are the best way to test theories about why people become involved in gambling. Unfortunately, these are challenging to undertake because of a number of practical and logistical factors. These include difficulty funding such a longitudinal study over a multiyear period; difficulties in maintaining research team continuity over a long time period; and the knowledge that longitudinal data confound aging and period effects (e.g., whether a new interest in gambling is due to being older or a new casino opening).