It may be the race that stops the nation, but it’s also an annual event that amplifies potentially destructive habits that wreak havoc on our overall wellbeing, according to a clinical psychologist.
Dr Yuliya Richard, a clinical psychologist who specialises in impulsivity, said Australians need to be wary of the ways that a day at the races can turn from a fun outing into a bigger problem.
“Getting dressed up to the nines and heading to the races sounds glamorous, and should be. But for some, it can play on impulsive issues such as binge drinking, impulsive spending and gambling,” she said.
“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to witness very well-dressed young men and women who have overindulged at the race track.”
“For those who know they have a problem consuming too much alcohol in too short a time, or don’t know when to stop betting on the horses, it would be wise to seek help before you attend the races or decide to give it a miss this year.”
Dr Richard outlined the three bad habits that can and will arise during the races:
Binge drinking is frequently defined as a man having five or more drinks in a two-hour period, or a woman having four or more drinks in the same period, she explained.
“As the drinks begin to flow, and the rounds continue throughout the day at the racecourse, some of our young punters can find themselves intoxicated. This is where some people can find themselves in trouble, because studies show there is a relationship between binge drinking and high-risk behaviours and injury,” she said.
“Many women and men attend the races for the prestige of the event, and the fashion stakes appear to be high. These days, there is also the additional pressure of posting photos capturing the latest fashion trends on social media,” she said.
This is all a recipe for an impulsive decision-maker to overspend on their outfit, she posited, turning their spring savings into a bank balance disaster.
“Impulsive overspending may make you feel good for a moment, look good at the races, but then make you feel deflated when you get home. Enduring the lean time between paychecks can make you feel frustrated, ashamed or angry.”
“Nothing says you could win big and have fun more than those heavily advertised race days such as the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. This is a dangerous proposition because a recent Australian report found that the two most common reasons used to gamble were for fun (62 per cent) and the chance of winning big money (52 per cent),” Dr Richard noted.
Throw alcohol or drugs into the mix and race goers could experience “Gamblers’ Fallacy”, she mused, where a loss on one race is interpreted in a way that supports the conviction that a win is imminent.
“This can lead to persistence in gambling. Binge drinking, impulsive overspending and gambling can all lead to interpersonal problems such as a relationship breakdown or have an impact on careers.”
But it is not all doom and gloom, she added: it is possible people can still have fun at the races, she said, by equipping themselves with the knowledge and skills to help them understand their thinking and their impulsive behaviour, and how to manage it.