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Update: Pilot of survey questions to understand gambling-related harm

An update on pilot of survey questions to understand gambling-related harm

Published: 14 December 2021

Last updated: 3 October 2022

This version was printed or saved on: 21 July 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/about-us/guide/update-pilot-of-survey-questions-to-understand-gambling-related-harm

Overview: ## Summary

Our corporate strategy sets out that gambling related harm is a public health issue requiring a coordinated response. It includes harm to an individual but also the wider impact it can have on family life, access to public services and costs to the community and economy. The Gambling Commission’s statutory role is to ensure licence holders are acting to protect children and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling. To do this, we need to understand the ways and extent that gambling consumers and others experience gambling harms.

In June 2020 the Gambling Commission started piloting a new set of survey questions designed to understand the incidence, nature and severity of harm experienced by gamblers and non-gamblers. The questions were iteratively tested on the Commission’s online tracker survey on a quarterly basis until September 2021.

The next stage will test a refined question set as part of our upcoming pilot of a new methodology for collecting participation and prevalence statistics. If successful, the harms questions will be asked alongside core questions on participation and problem gambling and will become official statistics.

Definition of gambling-related harms

Gambling-related harms are the adverse impacts from gambling on the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, communities and society.

These harms are diverse, affecting resources, relationships and health, and may reflect an interplay between individual, family and community processes. The harmful effects from gambling may be short-lived but can persist, having longer-term and enduring consequences that can exacerbate existing inequalities.

Measuring gambling related harms - a framework for action (PDF) provides more information.

What is in scope for this pilot

The pilot is part of an ongoing programme of evidence improvement being undertaken by the Commission’s Research and Statistics team.

With this project we are aiming to fill a gap in our understanding of how gamblers and affected others experience gambling-related harms by:

We want to publish reports and data as part of our official statistics programme to build confidence in the statistics through transparency and access to data for all.

What is not in scope for this pilot

The pilot is not aiming to form the basis of the development of a headline score or scale of gambling-related harms, nor is it designed to measure to the cost of gambling-harms to society. The Commission has a role to play in utilising its existing surveys to add to the wider evidence base. However, there is still a need for a range of partners to be involved in the funding and delivery of research to measure and understand gambling harms and the impact that they have on individuals, families, communities and societies.

Approach so far

27 harms statements were chosen for the pilot, based on a set of 73 specific harms statements developed by Browne et al (2016) (opens in a new tab). They were also aligned to the harms framework developed by Wardle et al 2018 (PDF) to ensure a balanced across the three key domains of harm; health, resources and relationships. In the first wave of the pilot (June 2020) the questions were asked with binary Yes / No response options. However, in September 2020 an additional question was introduced to the survey to understand the severity of the harms experienced, asked on a five-point Likert scale.

The questions were phrased in a way suitable for respondents at all levels of gambling involvement. They were then piloted in a further three survey waves, with the last wave conducted in June 2021. This gave an overall sample of 10,399 respondents on which extensive validation and preliminary analyses were conducted.

This included checking the internal consistency of the data against other variables such as PGSI score, gambling frequency, number of activities participated in etc. As expected, there was a relationship between these variables and the number and types of harms selected in the pilot questions i.e. those with higher PGSI scores selecting more types of harm overall, and the more severe harms listed. Early results suggest the questions worked, and a comparison between the waves of data collected showed consistency in responses wave on wave.

Part of the analysis also involved refining the question set into a smaller list of statements that can more easily be embedded into a wider questionnaire. To do this, factor analysis was conducted on the pilot data to allow the questions to be condensed without losing the robustness of potential measures of harm.

Whilst there were some similarities in the harms experienced as a result of someone’s own gambling and someone else’s gambling, the factor analysis showed that different harms drove the overall rates seen in the pilot. This is likely due to differences in the severity of the harms experienced. The factor analysis was therefore conducted separately for each group. The results of the factor analysis produced two shorter lists of statements which contribute strongly to levels of harm and contain items that are important to monitor in and of themselves (i.e. severe forms of gambling related harm). These statements were tested in September 2021.

Emerging findings

As the pilot is not yet complete and will be transitioning to a different methodology for the next phase, it is not appropriate to report conclusive data and findings. However, the emerging data do provide an interesting first look at the relationships between gamblers, affected others and harms. The emerging findings indicate that:

Next steps

The pilot questions are going to be refined and tested again as part of the pilot of our new approach to collecting participation and prevalence data. This work is being undertaken by NatCen, with the pilot due to commence in January 2022. The questions will also undergo cognitive testing.

If the pilot is a success, and the questions work as intended, then we will include them in our ongoing data collection and regular reporting alongside existing measures of participation and problem gambling.


27 harms statements tested in the pilot


Financial and resources: