Laying the foundation for quantifying regional exposure to social phenomena: Considering the case of legalized gambling as a public health toxin

Abstract

Exposure and adaptation models provide competing perspectives of the environmental influence on the development of addictive disorders. Exposure theory suggests that the presence of environmental toxins (e.g., casinos) increases the likelihood of related disease (e.g., gambling-related disorders). Adaptation theory proposes that new environmental toxins initially increase adverse reactions; subsequently, symptoms diminish as individuals adapt to such toxins and acquire resistance. The authors describe a new public health regional exposure model (REM) that provides a tool to gather empirical evidence in support of either model. This article demonstrates how the strategic REM, modified to examine gambling exposure, uses standardized indices of exposure to social phenomena at the regional level to quantify social constructs.

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