Our work on the measurement of gambling related harms

NatCen has been involved in the development of new gambling related harms questions which form part of the Gambling Survey for Great Britain.
Women sitting at laptop in home

As set out in this recent blog by the Gambling Commission, the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) has been involved in the development of new gambling related harms questions which form part of the Gambling Survey for Great Britain. 

Why do we need new harms questions?

Gambling related harms are defined as the adverse impacts from gambling on the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, communities, and society. These harms impact people’s resources, relationships and health. Harms can be experienced not just by people who gamble but also by those who are connected to them, including family, friends and employers, as well as communities and society more broadly. Traditionally screening instruments measure people’s likelihood of experiencing gambling disorder according to diagnostic criteria. The PGSI (Problem Gambling Severity Index) has become a popular screening instrument, which looks at a range of adverse behavioural and other consequences of gambling. Although these screening instruments are useful, they do have their limitations, for example, they only capture harms experienced by people who gamble and do not cover the widespread of negative impacts that can be experienced by gambling. Therefore, a better understanding of the types of harms people potentially experience due to their own gambling or from that of others is needed to provide greater depth in this area.  

How did we design and test the new questions?

Designing new survey questions involves several stages. Following participant engagement and question piloting, the Gambling Commission developed an initial set of harms questions covering three main areas: resources, relationships and health. NatCen, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, then cognitively tested these questions to fine tune how they were asked and to ensure they were capturing what was intended. These newly developed and tested questions were then included in the pilot of the Gambling Survey for Great Britain (GSGB)

For step 1 of the GSGB experimental statistics phase, questions were split into type 1 ‘severe’ harms (if experienced once, would be detrimental to individuals, communities and society) and type 2 ‘other’ harms (those with negative consequences – if experienced frequently likely to be harmful but if experienced once or twice may not be necessarily harmful, or may serve to indicate potential risk for future harms). Further testing on the type 2 harms questions were then carried out with some participants asked to give a binary response (‘Yes’ or ‘No’) while others were asked to respond on a four-point scale (‘never’, occasionally’, ‘fairly often’ and ‘very often’). The testing concluded it was beneficial to have more granular answer options for the type 2 harms questions. 

Qualitative research was also conducted to inform interpretation of the harms questions. Follow-up interviews with participants from the Gambling Survey Experimental Statistics Phase were conducted to understand how survey participants understood the response option ‘occasionally’ and how various gambling-related harms interrelated in participants’ lived experience.

Following testing from the pilot stage and findings from the qualitative research interviews, these newly developed harms questions using a two-point scale for the type 1 harms and a four-point scale for the type 2 harms were then used within the mainstage year 1 wave 1 GSGB.

How will these support better measurement of gambling related harms?

These new questions alongside other popular measures such as the PGSI, will allow a better understanding of the harms individuals face related to their own gambling as well as that of others. 

These questions will allow for further analysis to be carried out and help build a clearer picture of the wider impacts of gambling and gambling behaviours from a range of perspectives. The first data on the newly developed harms questions will be reported on in the Year 1 GSGB report, due in Summer 2024.