Gambling involves risking money or items of value on an event that is dependent on chance. It can be done in a number of ways, including using scratchcards, fruit machines or betting on sports events such as horse racing or football accumulators. It can also be done through electronic or online gambling sites. It is usually a social activity and involves friends or family members.

The harms associated with gambling are complex and varied. This is partly because the concept of harm itself is subjective, reflecting a social model of health and partly due to the inter-relationship between gambling, its associated behaviours and other comorbidities.

Generally, gambling is considered to be harmful when it affects a person’s quality of life or causes them financial loss. It can lead to serious debt and homelessness, impact mental and physical health, erode savings and investments and cause family and relationship problems. It can also impact work and study performance and even lead to criminal activity.

This project has identified several key themes around the experience of harm from gambling. These themes have been grouped into two separate categories based on their significance to people’s experiences of harm. The first category covers a range of harms experienced from a person’s initial engagement with gambling through to a period of sustained abstinence, often referred to as a ‘crisis point’. The second category includes legacy harms, which relate to the consequences of a person’s past engagement with gambling and may continue to occur even when they are no longer engaging in the behaviour.

In addition, there are many other harms experienced by people with gambling problems, including anxiety, depression and substance abuse. These issues can be both triggered by gambling and made worse by it, making it difficult to break the habit.

The best way to overcome a problem with gambling is to seek help. There are numerous support organisations available to help those with a gambling addiction, and there is also counselling available for the affected family members. Counselling can address a wide variety of concerns, from improving relationships with loved ones to working through debt and credit problems. It can also provide a fresh perspective on the underlying issues that drive an individual to gamble, such as boredom or feelings of stress and anxiety.

If you are worried about someone you know, the first step is to accept that they have a problem. This can be a difficult step for anyone, but it’s important to understand that problem gambling can have devastating effects on your health, finances and relationships. It can also be hard to break the habit if you have other addictions or comorbidities, such as alcoholism or depression, that require treatment in addition to your gambling. Seek professional counselling and support services to tackle these issues and help you break the gambling habit. For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 08457 9090 or visit a local Samaritans branch. Alternatively, use our free and anonymous e-counselling service to get matched with a trained counsellor in under 48 hours.