Gambling is an activity in which someone wagers something of value on a random event with the hope of winning a prize. It has been a part of human society since prerecorded history and is common in societies across the world. Some people participate in gambling to socialize with friends and family, while others engage in it as a way to relieve boredom or stress. It can be a harmful addiction, especially for people who are vulnerable to it.

A small number of individuals become heavily involved in gambling, which can have negative impacts on their health, relationships, work performance and life at home. These consequences can affect not only the gambler, but also their family, friends and coworkers. They can also lead to financial problems and cause them to spend more time on gambling than on other activities. Gambling is a risky activity that can lead to serious problems, including credit-card debt, bankruptcy and even suicide.

Some gambling-related harms include lying to a spouse, therapist or others about one’s involvement in gambling; losing significant personal or professional opportunities due to gambling; attempting to get even after a loss (“chasing” losses); and jeopardizing medical care for the sake of gambling. Other harms may be attributed to the social costs of gambling, such as lost work hours or decreased productivity at school and/or the workplace.

In addition to its negative effects, some forms of gambling can have positive impacts on the community. For example, local charities can use gambling revenues to support their operations, and gambling also brings tourism dollars to certain areas. However, many studies have only focused on the harmful aspects of gambling and fail to explore its potential positive impacts. A public health approach that focuses on the full spectrum of gambling impacts, including both negative and positive, is needed.