Gambling is an activity where someone risks something of value (such as money, property or possessions) in the hope of winning. It may also refer to the practice of betting on horse or greyhound races, football accumulators or other sporting events, or to speculation on business, insurance or stock markets.

It is an addictive pastime, which can result in psychological and physical harm to a person. It is now recognised as a mental health disorder, included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It is most commonly seen in older adults, but can occur at any age or socioeconomic background. Problem gambling is associated with loss of employment, increased stress levels, poorer performance in work and even criminal acts such as embezzlement in the workplace.

Some people gamble to socialise and relax, as well as to improve their financial situation. Others find the thrill of gambling to be a source of pleasure and excitement. For some, it provides a way to feel in control of a situation that is often out of their hands – such as a sports team’s winning or losing season.

However, many studies fail to include all costs associated with gambling, including those that are social or non-monetary. In order to be considered a social cost, the effect must aggregate to societal real wealth and cause harm to some people while benefiting none (e.g. a statewide lottery).

Many government lotteries contribute a percentage of their profits to public service funding and charitable initiatives, such as education, healthcare and community development projects. Additionally, casinos and gambling operators are increasingly engaged in corporate social responsibility, donating a portion of their profits to philanthropic organisations.

Gambling can lead to addiction, which affects an individual’s quality of life and their relationships with family, friends and colleagues. People who are addicted to gambling may develop depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. They may become isolated and lie about their gambling habits or start hiding evidence of their behaviour.

Those suffering from gambling problems can benefit from support, assistance and counselling services. Some offer group and individual therapy, which can help people understand the underlying causes of their addiction and develop strategies to overcome it. Some services can even provide medication to manage withdrawal symptoms.

To help stop gambling, it is important to talk about it with someone who won’t judge you. This could be a friend, colleague or professional counsellor. In addition, try to reduce risk factors by reducing spending on gambling, avoiding gambling venues and reducing the time you spend gambling. If you struggle to quit, you may also find it helpful to join a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is a 12-step recovery program based on Alcoholics Anonymous. This will give you the opportunity to share your experiences with other people who are struggling with the same issues. Additionally, you can also consider finding new ways to socialise and find new hobbies.