When people gamble, they wager something of value (money or other items) on the outcome of an event that relies on chance. The chances of winning or losing are equally uncertain. Some people enjoy gambling and play responsibly, while others are unable to control their gambling behaviours.
Gambling is a complex activity and there are many factors that influence it. Some of these factors can include a person’s environment, their family and social relationships, their financial circumstances, and their mental health. In addition, there are some specific biological factors such as a person’s brain chemistry. For example, when someone wins at a game of chance, their brain is released with dopamine, which creates a feeling of excitement and reward. This can lead some people to keep gambling even when they are losing.
Research has found that some people may be genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviours and impulsivity, and there are also differences in the way people process information, control their impulses and weigh risk. These factors may help to explain why some people are more vulnerable to harmful gambling than others.
At the community level, studies of gambling have mainly focused on its negative impacts, such as increasing crime rates or reducing economic growth. At the individual/family level, longitudinal data are needed to identify factors that moderate and exacerbate gambling participation. Longitudinal designs also allow for the estimation of causal effects, particularly if a person’s gambling interest changes over time, as is the case with the opening of a casino in an area.