Gambling is an activity that involves putting something of value at risk on an event where the outcome depends on a combination of chance and skill. It can be done in a variety of settings, including casinos, lotteries, horse racing, and other types of online gambling. Regardless of the specifics, it is a form of risky entertainment that has both positive and negative impacts on people’s lives. These impacts are observable at the personal, interpersonal, and community/society levels.
Gambling contributes to the economic stability of countries around the world by providing employment and tax revenue. It is also a common way for individuals to socialize with others and relieve boredom or unpleasant feelings, such as loneliness or stress. However, it is important to note that there are healthier and more effective ways of coping with unpleasant emotions, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, or practicing relaxation techniques.
The etiology of pathological gambling is poorly understood and current treatments show only limited effectiveness. In addition, eclectic theoretic conceptualizations of pathological gambling confuse matters and make it more difficult to understand why certain interventions are successful and others are not.
Longitudinal studies are a key methodological tool for understanding gambling’s effects. However, they are challenging to conduct due to the enormous funding required for multiyear commitments; challenges in maintaining research team continuity over the length of the study; and sample attrition. In addition, the use of longitudinal data may confound aging and period effects (e.g., a person’s changing interest in gambling as they age).