Gambling is an activity where people risk money or possessions in the hope of winning a prize. Historically, this has been done by betting on events with some element of randomness (e.g. football matches or scratchcards). However, new technology has blurred the lines and there are now many different ways to gamble. This includes gambling online, via video games and even on social media.

Harms associated with gambling can affect any aspect of a person’s life including their relationships, financial situation and wellbeing. These harms can occur from one’s first engagement with gambling through to their last and can also extend beyond the individual’s direct engagement with gambling and may be exacerbated by comorbidities such as depression or alcohol abuse.

It is often difficult to identify someone who has a problem with gambling as they may not recognise it themselves or feel ashamed about their addiction. In addition, a person’s feelings can vary from day to day making it hard to pinpoint when something has changed.

Despite this, there are a number of signs and symptoms that you can look out for that might indicate a gambling problem. For example, your loved one may start to miss work or social activities as a result of their gambling. They might withdraw from friends or family, spend more time gambling or become secretive about their spending. If you are concerned about the behaviour of a friend or relative, it is important to seek help as soon as possible.

The aim of this research is to explore the nature of gambling related harms in order to inform the development and evaluation of interventions aimed at preventing or treating these problems. The approach taken is grounded in a public health framework that acknowledges the complex interrelationships between a person’s gambling behaviour, their relationships and broader societal factors. This is a welcome departure from current pathogenic approaches that focus on the etiology of gambling disorders, which has been shown to have limited efficacy in treatment.

This research was based on semi-structured interviews with participants who identified as either people who gamble or affected others, with the majority of the interviews taking place in person and some by telephone. The total sample was 25 individuals. Interviews ranged from twenty to sixty minutes in length.

There are a number of reasons why a person might start gambling and these can be split into four categories. They can be for coping reasons, for financial reward, to escape from negative feelings and to pass the time. Alternatively, a person might be in financial crisis and start gambling to try to find an easy way out of their debt problem. In these situations, it is advisable to speak to a debt adviser for free, confidential advice. Lastly, a person might gamble for entertainment purposes such as socialising with friends or watching sporting events.