Gambling is an activity where a person wagers something of value on a random event, with the intent to win. This activity can be conducted with a currency or something of value not a currency, such as marbles or collectible game pieces. It is a global activity and has significant impacts on people, their families, and society. Gambling is a known to cause psychological, emotional, and behavioral problems in some individuals. A common mental disorder associated with gambling is pathological gambling (PG), characterized by maladaptive patterns of behavior that occur over time and result in distressing consequences for the gambler, their family, and the wider community. PG is more common in males and begins earlier in life, whereas females report more problems with nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling.
While a large portion of the population participates in gambling, some people develop a compulsive and often expensive addiction to it that can cause many different issues in their lives. For example, a compulsive gambler may lose their job and even end up homeless due to gambling-related debt. Moreover, they may hide their gambling from others and lie about it to prevent anyone from finding out.
Several studies have investigated gambling’s impacts, with most of them taking a cost-benefit perspective and only looking at negative effects. However, such an approach is not always appropriate since it overlooks the benefits that can also be caused by gambling. A more holistic approach is a longitudinal study, where researchers follow the same individuals over a long period of time. This enables the researchers to identify factors that moderate and exacerbate a person’s participation in gambling and, in turn, determine causality.