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Qualitative follow-up interviews with participants from the Gambling Survey Experimental Phase

We have refined new survey questions aimed at collecting better data on the experience of gambling-related harms in the upcoming Gambling Survey for Great Britain.

Overview of impacts of gambling on participants

Participants discussed the impacts of their own gambling and/or the impacts of others’ gambling, and whether they perceived those impacts to be positive, negative or neutral.7 This section summarises the range of impacts described by participants, which are discussed in more detail in upcoming sections (which explore gambling-related harms experienced ‘occasionally’ and the interrelation of different harms).

When reviewing these impacts, it should be noted that this research focuses on gambling-related harms and participants were chosen due to their reported experience of these harms. In many cases, participants had experienced harms ‘occasionally’ and ‘very or fairly often’. Therefore, this group may be more likely to highlight the negative impacts of gambling than people who have suffered less or no harm (who may focus on more positive impacts). The sample for this research also did not include survey participants who may have experienced the most serious experiences of harm (answering ‘very or fairly often’ to all applicable harms). This section does not intend to provide an exhaustive summary of the impacts of gambling, but rather to illustrate the range of impacts experienced by participants in this research to provide context for the findings in upcoming sections.

Impacts of own gambling


Within this sample of participants, financial impacts of gambling were experienced more commonly than other types of impacts (relationships and health).8 Participants discussed a range of positive and negative financial impacts related to their own gambling. When discussing positive impacts, participants mentioned enjoying a “buzz” when they won and purchasing material goods (for example, cars) and experiences (for example, holidays) with winnings. However, these participants tended to feel that the potential of financial gain did not offset the negative impacts they had experienced.

“I don't think there was any positives I really got through it. I'd feel a little bit of a buzz when I'd, if I'd won, but that would quickly be replaced by a low of losing and the buzz wasn't any more than if I'd just watched my team play and win. It was just fleeting.”

Male participant aged 35 to 54 years old, who experienced harm related to their own gambling.

The negative financial consequences identified by participants were wide-ranging. As captured in their survey responses, participants reported reducing their spending on everyday items such as groceries and bus fares. Participants also reduced spending on items which were not essential but would have been enjoyable, such as social outings with their friends, clothes or concert tickets. Some participants felt the impacts of this were not significant. However, for others this led to reduced opportunities for socialising, frustration at missing out on opportunities and feelings of guilt (for example, guilt about having less money for family activities).

Some participants had used money from their savings to gamble, which could have been used on a wedding, renovating a house or reinvested in a participant’s business. In other cases, participants described borrowing money from friends or taking out credit cards to pay for the everyday expenses they could not afford due to gambling losses. One participant had asked work clients for early and/or advance payment to cover debts incurred by their gambling losses. Amongst the more severe financial impacts, the inability to pay off loans and bills had led to more serious impacts such as participants falling behind on mortgage payments or losing their home.

Participants reported negative impacts related to work and school performance, including being late or distracted from their work or study, missing school or work to gamble or to sleep after a night spent gambling. However, one participant (who experienced financial harms) felt that overall gambling had a positive impact on work performance because they were more motivated to earn money to offset financial losses.

"After a bad time at gambling and you’ve lost your money, it’s hard to work because it’s just going through your mind. You can’t think, you are stressed, and it’s difficult.”

Male participant aged over 55 years old, who experienced harm related to their own gambling.


Participants felt that their gambling had negatively impacted the quality of their social connections and relationships. In some cases, this was because participants had not been truthful with others about the extent of their gambling out of embarrassment or to avoid conflict. Other participants identified that gambling activities led them to reduce the amount of time they spent with family or friends. Some participants also described situations of direct conflict, including frictions in friendships (when they won or lost more than the friends they were gambling with), or arguments with friends and family who were worried about their gambling.

“My mum actually, she'll turn round and say to me, 'What are you doing? You're an idiot,' trying to get me to open my eyes. …Yes, conflict is a big issue. It's just my mum worrying about me.”

Male participant aged 18 to 34 years old who experienced harm related to their own gambling.


Participants also discussed a variety of impacts related to their mental health and wellbeing. This included anxiety (due to monetary losses and borrowing money) and guilt (over the time spent gambling and the repercussions on their family and friends). Some participants described a heavy mental burden caused by constant worry about financial losses from gambling. However, participants also pointed to more positive impacts that gambling had on their wellbeing. Specifically, they felt that placing bets made watching sport more interesting and highlighted that gambling could be a fun activity to enjoy with friends and family.

“I enjoy playing the games, as long as it doesn’t cost too much… it’s quite fun.”

Male participant aged 35 to 54 years old who experienced harm related to their own gambling.

Impacts of other people’s gambling


Participants who were impacted by the gambling of others (friends, family or partners) reported lending money to the person who was gambling to help with bills and everyday purchases. The consequences of these loans varied. While some participants were minimally impacted or only felt “annoyed”, others needed to reduce their own spending, got into debt or incurred other negative financial consequences (for example, being forced to withdraw their pension before retirement age). Some participants also supported friends or family in managing their finances (for example, taking control over their spending) which could be a significant time commitment.

“Yes, so the knock-on effect was them [their child’s partner] not having any money and them [their child] having to come to me for money. Me having to cash in my pension which, now I'm hitting a not-so-good age, I don't have that to fall back on.”

Female participant aged over 55 years old, who experienced harm related to someone else’s gambling.

The only positive financial impact highlighted by one participant was that they had received gifts from a family member who had won a significant amount of money through gambling.


Similarly to participants who experienced social impacts due to their own gambling, participants in this group reported conflict and relationship strain with the person and/or people in their life who gambled. Some participants expressed feeling secondary to the gambling which reduced their enjoyment spending time with the other person and could lead to feelings of isolation.

“He [father] would be so absorbed in a game, hooked on something, that we wouldn't see him at all. I'd say that [gambling] took him away from us.”

Female participant aged over 55 years old, who experienced harm related to someone else’s gambling.

Gambling had also led to a lack of trust between some participants and their friends and/or family who were gambling. In some cases, participants were aware that someone had not been truthful about the extent of their gambling, while others suspected this may be the case. Participants highlighted that other relationships were also impacted, as they would avoid conversations about the person who was gambling out of embarrassment or would feel they had to lie to friends and family to conceal the negative impacts of gambling.


Participants reported a range of negative impacts on their health and wellbeing due to the gambling of others. They expressed anxiety and worry about the person gambling and others impacted (such as children). Participants reported feeling stressed about money they had loaned and the potential consequences stemming from money they had borrowed, such as long-term debt and receiving calls from lenders or debt collectors.

“The very definition of stress... when there's a situation that you can see is a difficult one, is a challenging one but you've got no means by which to change it.”

Female participant aged over 55 years old, who experienced harm related to someone else’s gambling.

Participants also reported anger and frustration over their inability to help the person gambling. Participants emphasised the long-term nature of these emotional impacts. For example, some participants still felt impacts even once they were no longer living with or stopped helping the person who was gambling. These emotional impacts could also lead to physical consequences, such as lack of sleep caused by worry or anxiety.


7 The survey questions focused on impacts over the 12 months prior to the survey. However, the impacts described in this section are not limited to this time period but provide an overview of the lived experiences of participants.

8 This should not be assumed to be reflective of the experience of the wider population, but guides interpretation of the data.

Previous section
Qualitative GSGB Experimental Statistics Phase: Background and methods
Next section
Qualitative GSGB Experimental Statistics Phase: Experience and understanding of ‘occasional’ harms
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