Gambling is an activity in which people wager money or other items of value on a game with a non-zero chance of winning or losing. It can be conducted legally or illegally. It is a widespread international commercial and social activity with the potential for psychological and financial harm. There are various theories of why and how individuals become addicted to gambling. These include sensation-and novelty-seeking, impulsiveness, and negative emotionality. Behavioral disinhibition is also thought to play a role in gambling behavior. However, there is debate about the degree to which this factor is correlated with sensation-and novelty-seeking and impulsiveness.
While many people enjoy a form of gambling in their spare time, some do so to the point of compulsiveness. Symptoms of compulsive gambling may include: (1) lying to family members, therapists, and others in order to conceal the extent of one’s involvement in gambling; (2) betting more than a person can afford to lose; (3) spending more time on gambling than on important activities such as work, school, or relationships; (4) seeking out new sources of information about gambling, even when it is illegal; (5) making repeated attempts to recover losses; and (6) relying on loans, credit, or other individuals in a desperate attempt to gamble. Several studies have shown that pathological gambling (PG) is a serious and debilitating condition. Those who are diagnosed with PG often start gambling in their adolescence or early adulthood and may continue for years. There is a high comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders, especially substance abuse. Despite the high prevalence of PG, it is rarely diagnosed and treated.
Some forms of gambling involve bets on events or outcomes that require substantial knowledge and skill on the part of the bettors, such as the stock market, horse racing, and professional sports betting. However, in the broadest sense of the word, even playing a board game such as Monopoly or cards with friends can be considered gambling because the players place a value on their pieces, and there is a possibility that the player will win.
Another common form of gambling involves the lottery, in which a prize is awarded to a random winner through a drawing. The prize can range from a small amount of cash to something that will greatly improve a person’s quality of life, such as a house or car. Several states and federal governments operate lotteries.
The study of a person’s participation in gambling can be most productive when it utilizes longitudinal data. This allows researchers to identify and investigate factors that moderate and exacerbate an individual’s gambling participation over the long term. It is also more cost-efficient than creating a large number of smaller research projects with limited data pools.