Gambling in Socio-Cultural Contexts


Gambling is betting something of value on an uncertain event with awareness that there is a risk of loss in the hope of winning something else of value. It can include lottery tickets, scratch cards and other instant games; casino and online gambling; horse or football accumulators and other forms of betting; and speculating on business or financial markets.

While there is a wealth of research on gambling focused on individual behaviour and addiction, there is a growing corpus of research considering the wider socio-cultural contexts that shape gambling practices. This approach has potential to broaden harm reduction strategies beyond a narrow focus on cognitive distortions, mental illness and moral turpitude.

This article uses data from the longitudinal ALSPAC cohort, which has collected a wide range of measures on family life, social and economic circumstances, health, work and study for over 25 years. The data used in this article were based on those of participants who completed the gambling survey at 17, 20 and 24 years of age. Variables for which missing data was present were imputed using multiple imputation techniques, and this probably underestimated their influence. More details are available in supplementary Methods.

For many people, gambling is a way to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as boredom or loneliness. It can also provide a sense of excitement and adventure. However, other ways to relieve unpleasant emotions or to unwind are often more effective and healthier than gambling. It is important to find alternative ways to gamble and to be aware of the potential risks that gambling can pose.