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GAMBLING: The New Money Pandemic

A discovery into the new wave of online gambling amongst teenagers and adults and that is having detrimental effects on financial and mental health

Now and again, everyone enjoys the thrill of a few pounds or prizes from the odd lottery ticket, scratch card, or bingo game but when is it too far and how do we recognise the severity of implications that arise from gambling?

What is gambling?

Gambling is the act of betting money or high-value goods on a predicted outcome to win money. According to The Guardian, in 2020 2.7% of the UK gambled, on average the UK spends £14 billion a year on gambling and betting. The most common types of betting are sports betting, lottery, fruit machines, casino games, and bingo. Gambling is intrinsically embedded in history, the earliest evidence of gambling dates to 500 B.C. to the Ancient Romans who used money, animals, properties, and partners to place bets. Most of the time gambling is harmless, however, with this century's digital revolution, access to online gambling has increased the sum of money betted and increased the risk of debt, particularly in young adults. The NHS has predicted that 2.2 million brits are either problem gamblers or at risk of gambling addiction.

Why and who participates in gambling?

Well, for most of us, it seems logical to minimize the risk of losing any money however individuals who gamble enjoy the adrenaline rush from the prospect of winning money. Scientists can confirm that when an individual wins a bet, dopamine is released in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter chemical responsible for the feeling of excitement and an intense sense of pleasure. Usually, when a person wins a gamble they use their money from the winnings to place a new bet in which they may or may not win. The ‘high’ experienced from gambling may be used to fill a void, escape from stress, or cope with a social situation. With the desire to make more wins and chase that ‘dopamine high’ a person may bet more frequently or with larger sums of money.

According to Statistica, the biggest age group of gamblers is 45–54-year-olds and is more prevalent amongst males . In the UK, the Gambling Act restricts the legal betting age to 18. However, with the increase of online gaming and video games there has been a spike in underage betting among teenagers and young adults on games. Online gambling has increased from 42% to 61% in 6 years as of 2021. Increased access to online betting and tighter financial means that younger generations may cause determent to their future financial and mental health.

“Problematic gaming among adolescents can lead to problematic gambling as an adolescent and as an adult,” Dr. Ivoska says

When has gambling gone too far?

Gambling is largely viewed as a great form of social entertainment however stops being fun when it becomes unsustainable. Gambling money too often or too frequently can quickly manifest itself into a form of addiction and the individual may find themselves involved in a vicious cycle. But how can we distinguish between a hobby and an addiction? There are lots of signs and signals that indicate a person has developed a gambling addiction such as; an individual cannot afford bets, starts borrowing money from family and friends that they cannot repay, starts withdrawing from social responsibilities, becomes secretive and agitated or has the inability to focus on simple daily tasks.

Long-term effects of gambling

Gambling addictions have many long–term adverse effects, many of those who have fallen into the trap find themselves with overwhelming amounts of debts, loss of friendships and relationships, and more often than not the addiction is accompanied by substance or alcohol misuse. Gamblers may find it hard to take out a mortgage, get on the property ladder, and be employed due to rejection from employers, creditors, and lenders from banks. Gamblers find it hard to maintain a healthy income and disposable income with difficulty in effective money management and become trapped in a cycle of inefficient cash flow. Financial difficulties caused by gambling not only have a physical effect on the individual but also adverse effects on the brain too, leading to depression, anxiety, and in some cases suicide.

How to help someone with a gambling addiction

The first rule in supporting someone with a gambling addiction is to refuse to lend the person money regardless of how desperate, closely related, or compelled you or feel. This will only worsen and fuel their addiction. Try sitting in a calm space and having an honest conversation with the person, remind them you are there to support them emotionally by recognising they have a problem is crucial to starting their recovery. Directing the person to gambling helplines such as Gambling aware

So, just think is the risk really worth taking ?

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