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Developing survey questions capturing gambling-related harms

Heather Wardle1, Viktorija Kesaite1, Robert Williams2, Rachel Volberg3


Since 2020, the Gambling Commission has conducted work to develop and test a series of survey questions aimed at collecting data on the experience of gambling harms. This focused on capturing data on harms from your own gambling ('harms to self') and harms generated due to the gambling of others ('harms from others').

The principles guiding the Commission’s development process were that:

  • the new questions should capture both harms experienced because of your own gambling and also because of someone else’s gambling
  • the harms included should map to existing frameworks
  • questions should capture current harms experienced and should include a dimension for capturing severity of experience
  • the harms captured are valid and include a range of experiences.

To do this, the Commission reviewed a range of different frameworks for gambling harms (which broadly map similar criteria though summarise them in different ways). They then created a suite of questions devised from the 72 harms statements developed by Browne et al. They chose 27 statements to pilot and test in three waves of their online omnibus survey and analysed the resulting data. This included looking at internal consistency of the data against other variables such as problem gambling score, gambling frequency, number of activities participated in etc.

Questions were repeated across waves to look at the stability of responses in repeated cross-sectional surveys. To reduce the number of items (because of respondent burden and limitations of questionnaire space), the Commission used factor analysis to reduce the number of statements to a smaller sub-set. This produced two questionnaire sub-sets, one measuring ‘harms to self’ and one measuring ‘harms from others’. They both consisted of 14 questions.

The next stage of development was to include these questions within the programme of work being undertaken by NatCen Social Research and the University of Glasgow to devise a new random probability survey capturing gambling prevalence across Great Britain (gambling prevalence survey). As part of the development work for this study, the harms questions were reviewed by questionnaire development experts at NatCen’s Questionnaire Development and Testing Hub, with suggested amendments made prior to their inclusion in the first pilot of the gambling prevalence survey.

To aid this process, two external experts, Robert Williams and Rachel Volberg were asked to review the Commission’s procedures undertaken to date and provide further expert advice on how the questions could be modified.

This note summarises the advice received from Robert Williams and Rachel Volberg (Part A), presents analysis of the harms questions from the pilot survey (Part B) and summarises the recommendations made to further test and improve the questions (Part C).


1 Gambling Research Glasgow, University of Glasgow

2 University of Lethbridge, Canada

3 Gemini Research, Mass, United States of America (USA)

Next page
Developing gambling-related harms survey questions - Part A - Expert review of questions
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