The Harms of Gambling


Gambling is a risky activity that can take a huge toll on a person’s mental and physical health. Many people gamble for fun and only occasionally, however, for others it can become a problem that affects their entire life.

Gamblers are often treated for substance misuse problems, and they have been found to have comorbid mental disorders such as depression, anxiety or stress. In addition, a gambling problem can lead to self harm and suicide ideation or attempts.

Harms related to gambling were classified into six categories: financial, those harms relating to relationships, emotional and psychological, impacts on health, impact on work or study, and criminal acts. For those with strong religious beliefs, CALD groups and indigenous populations a seventh category of cultural harms was identified.

General financial harms associated with a person who gambled included the loss of savings and capacity to manage other discretionary expenditure such as social or artistic activities, involvement in sporting or educational activities, a reduction in income and reliance on credit products. These harms could be further exacerbated by the effects of a debt cycle and poor credit ratings that were often linked to the problem gambling behaviour.

Relationship harms were another major concern for both the person who gambled and their affected others. These were reported as both primary and secondary or further order harms, often resulting in relationship breakdown or conflict and/or a threat of divorce.

There are a number of support services that can assist with managing gambling and its effects, such as Gamblers Anonymous. These offer a 12-step recovery programme and can help you develop strategies to stay free from the harms of gambling.