Gambling involves risking something of value, such as money or other items, on an event whose outcome is determined at least in part by chance. It can be done in many ways, including betting on sports events, buying lottery tickets, playing bingo or scratchcards, or even playing online casino games.

While gambling can be enjoyable for some people, for others it becomes a serious problem that affects their finances and their life in general. It can lead to debt, strained relationships and even homelessness. It can also trigger mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. In addition, there is a strong link between gambling and thoughts of suicide. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 999 or visit A&E immediately.

When you gamble, your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel excited and happy. This feeling is similar to the one you get when spending time with loved ones or eating a delicious meal. But gambling can become addictive if you don’t have the self-control to stop.

There are different approaches to studying the impacts of gambling. For example, it can be researched from a cost of illness perspective, which is commonly used in alcohol and drug research, or by looking at the monetary value of harms and benefits (Fig. 1). However, this approach neglects the fact that gambling can also cause social costs and benefits for those not directly involved in the gambling activity itself. These include the effects of a gambler’s increased debt on family members, work colleagues and their community.