The impacts of problem gambling are often thought to be purely financial; however problem gambling can also lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices. Gambling on the poker machines is often accompanied by drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Problem gamblers are four times more likely than non-gamblers to have problems with alcohol and four times more likely to smoke than non-gamblers.
Gambling may involve sitting in front of a poker machines for extended periods of time, reducing the time spent exercising or socialising with others, which is important for both physical and mental health. Problem gambling also involves high levels of stress and anxiety, with problem gamblers being 20 times more likely to experience psychological distress. Problem gamblers are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be depressed than non-gamblers and 46% of problem gamblers report problems with anxiety. Stress, anxiety and depression may increase an individual’s reliance on negative coping strategies including the use of alcohol or further gambling.
Playing the poker machines, smoking and drinking alcohol excessively are all unhealthy lifestyle choices and combining them may mean the choice to gamble not only involves a risk to your financial wellbeing but also to your health. Your decision to stop gambling will improve your financial situation and will also have a positive impact on your health and relationships. Speaking to a gambling counsellor can be the first step in breaking the negative cycle of gambling and improving your lifestyle.
A gambling counsellor can be found by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858. Free individual sessions are available to anybody who might be concerned their gambling has gotten out of hand.
The Gambling Help website has a range of free resources and self-help tools available to download or order, as well as new community support forums where you can share your experiences and hear from others who are in similar situations. Visit www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/forum to join the conversation.