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Gambling: a public health concern?

22 April 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 8

Gambling is an emerging public health concern. Not all gambling exposes everyone to the same degree of harm (Atherton and Beynon, 2019); it can, however, have a negative impact on individuals, families and communities. It merits population-level interventions and the creation of programmes to tackle the health risk by addressing underlying social, economic and environmental conditions. New trends and technologies are affecting gambling behaviour across a range of populations. Worldwide, legislation appears to have failed to constrain gambling, particularly in young people. Technology such as online gaming apps (mobile gambling) and online gambling venues has substantially fuelled exposure to the risks of problem gambling.

The World Health Organization (2018) includes gambling disorder as an addictive behaviour in ICD-11, characterised by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gambling behaviour, which may be online or offline. The addictive behaviour results in impaired control over gambling, its onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context, and increasing priority given to gambling such that it takes priority over other life interests and daily activities and continuation or escalation of gambling despite the presence of negative consequences. It can be continuous or episodic and recurrent, it results in significant distress or in significant damage to personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important spheres of functioning.

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