Gambling harms are “the adverse impacts from gambling on the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, communities, and society.”21Wardle et al. (2018), Measuring gambling-related harms: A framework for action.

In Scotland, it is estimated that more than 200,000 people are at risk of, or currently experiencing, harm related to their own gambling22Arnot (2018), Scottish Public Health Network gambling update. .

These harms affect people’s resources, relationships, and health. For example:


Gambling harm can affect employment and finances, and may involve engagement in antisocial behaviours and criminal activities.

For example, people may lose out on opportunities, experience instability in their economic lives, be less productive at work, accumulate debt, or experience bankruptcy.

"When I worked in a convenience store we had a lottery stand and we’d stand there looking at it all day long. Me and the guy I worked with would literally just, throughout the shift, we’d be serving customers and then they’d be a lull and the shop would quieten and we’d grab a few random scratch cards, scratch them and then sit them at the side - aw we’ll win something one day! The amount of times we’d have to pay for all of these scratch cards straight off our wages. That’s illegal”.


Relationships with close family and friends may be affected, as well as with the wider community, for example through family breakdown and homelessness.

For example, people’s relationships with family, friends, and communities may breakdown or erode due to breach of trust, which may decrease family and community cohesion or resources.

"You end up hiding things from people. You’re ashamed like, oh I’ve not got money for the weans school trip this week. I cannae borrow money, cannae go and tell my mum or borrow money off my mum cause I cannae tell her it was gamblin."


Both mental and physical health may be impacted, and disordered gambling may lead to substance use and suicidal thoughts.

For example, people experiencing disordered gambling are more likely to experience sleep deprivation and chronic stress, which can lead to physical consequences such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and worsening of existing medical problems23The Biopsychosocial Consequences of Pathological Gambling - PMC ( They are also more likely to experience poor mental health and psychological distress (e.g. shame, guilt, stigma).

“A lot of people who have severe gambling addictions, a lot of them then use alcohol or cocaine or even just weed. A lot of them will use one of those things as a crutch to block out the fact that they’ve gambled away all their money. So, then the gambling isn't really looked at, it's because they're drinking or using drugs. But it's not - they're drinking to hide the shame of having lost everything. So, the gambling isn't what you SEE as the problem, you see all the other factors round about it.”

In a clinical context, people who experience significant harm or loss of control as a result of their gambling may be diagnosed as experiencing a gambling disorder:

Definition: Gambling disorder

is defined by the World Health Organisation as a pattern of gambling behaviour that causes “significant distress or impairment” to important personal functions. This could include disruption or damage to personal, family or recreational pursuits. People with a gambling disorder also experience impaired control over gambling24World Health Organization (2021), 6C50 Gambling Disorder..

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