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Understanding gambling harm as a health issue

Physiotherapist with older female using hand weights

People who are experiencing harm from gambling sometimes disclose their struggles to someone they already trust before seeking help. Often, the person they trust is a health professional - such as a GP, psychologist, or allied health practitioner - who provides support or treatment for other health and wellbeing issues.

Stigma associated with gambling, and a lack of awareness of the signs of gambling harm, can act as barriers to a person seeking help from gambling support services.

Therefore, there’s an opportunity for health professionals to talk to patients about gambling harm within the context of a broader health and wellbeing conversation and discuss options for support and recovery.

On this page is:

What is gambling harm?

Gambling harm is any negative consequence or side effect experienced as a result of gambling.

Financial problems are the most obvious harm, but others include:

  • feelings of embarrassment, regret, shame and guilt
  • increased tobacco and alcohol and other drug (AOD) use
  • reduced work or study performance
  • sleeplessness, stress, anxiety, depression, suicide
  • family violence and relationship problems.

There are a range of health and wellbeing signs that may indicate the presence of gambling harm.

Behavioural signs

Your client:

  • spends a lot of time in gambling venues or on the computer
  • has stopped doing things he or she previously enjoyed
  • complains about changes in their patterns of sleep, eating or sex
  • neglects self-care, work, school or family tasks
  • uses alcohol or other drugs more often
  • neglects personal or parental responsibilities.

Emotional signs

Your client:

  • feels guilty about mood swings, anger or frustration vented at their family or friends
  • complains about unexplained stress, anxiety or sleeplessness
  • complains of boredom and restlessness seems depressed or suicidal.

Financial/legal signs

Your client:

  • frequently seeks unexplained emergency financial assistance
  • has ongoing financial problems that cannot be logically explained
  • seems to have a bare house (very little food, no utilities, little furniture)
  • has legal problems related to gambling.

Health signs

Your client has complained about stress-related health problems, such as:

  • headaches
  • stomach and bowel problems
  • difficulty sleeping
  • overeating, or loss of appetite.


In Victoria


of people who experience problem gambling have a diagnosed mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, alcohol use disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder

Gambling harm is a complex issue that often co-occurs alongside mental ill-health, use of tobacco and AOD, family and relationship conflict, or various forms of trauma (such as interpersonal, multi-generational or acquired).

Research shows that in Victoria:

  • 39% of people who experience problem gambling* have a diagnosed mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, alcohol use disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • 39% of people who experience problem gambling* are in a state of high distress, compared with 5% of the general population (measured on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale)
  • self-reported satisfaction with life drops as risky gambling behaviour increases (Australian Unity Wellbeing Index)
  • there is a correlation between risky gambling behaviour, and heavy alcohol and tobacco use.

*As defined by the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), which is a tool used by researchers and counsellors to estimate a person’s risk of experiencing problem gambling. The most severe harms are experienced by people in the problem gambling PGSI category, but the majority of harms (70%) are experienced by people in lower risk categories.

How to support a client with gambling-related issues

Information for general practitioners and allied health professionals on how to support patients who are experiencing harm from gambling, including how to screen patients for gambling harm, how to have a conversation about gambling harm, and how to refer patients to Gambler’s Help.

Gambler’s Help programs

Information for health professionals about the services and programs delivered by Gambler’s Help agencies throughout Victoria.

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