Qualitative research on experiences of gambling-related harms

The Gambling Commission is piloting new survey questions on gambling harms. This research provides insights to inform analysis of survey data.
Women sitting at laptop in home

About the study 

The Gambling Commission has been piloting new survey questions on gambling-related harms which will be included in the Gambling Survey for Great Britain. An experimental phase survey conducted by the Gambling Commission recommended that a four-point answer scale should be used when asking about experiences of harm, except for harms that are more severe – such as bankruptcy and relationship breakdown – where a binary (yes or no) response option is preferred. The scale options used in the harms questions are ‘very often’, ‘fairly often’, ‘occasionally’ and ‘never. We conducted interviews with survey participants to provide insight into experiences of ‘occasional’ harms. The interviews also explored the connections between different harms.


The findings from the qualitative research indicate that ‘occasional’ responses tend to involve some degree of gambling-related harm and should be included in analysis of the survey’s gambling-related harms questions. However, when presenting the survey data it will be important to note that that ‘occasional’ responses capture a range of impacts, with some being very minimal while others are more severe. It is also important to note the distinction between frequency and impacts of harm. Although many ‘occasional’ experiences of harm will be less series than more frequent experience, this is not true in all cases.

The research found a range of ways that harms interrelated, including similar types of harm being connected (for example, one financial harm leading to another financial harm) and the interrelation of different types of harm (for example, financial harm leading to relationship harm). Participants identified a number of relationships between gambling-related harms:

  • One harm leading to another harm;
  • One harm leading to multiple harms;
  • Circular relationships between harms;
  • Harms taking place simultaneously.

Participants also expressed that gambling harms do not exist in a vacuum, separate to other experiences in their lives. Experiences of harm were impacted by and related to external factors (for example, mental health or financial situation) and in many cases participants found it difficult to disentangle the impacts of these factors from the impacts of gambling harm.


In-depth interviews were conducted with 16 people from the Gambling Survey Experimental Phase. Participants were selected based on their survey responses, including at least one experience of an ‘occasional’ harm – this was our “primary sampling criteria”. Demographic factors and types of gambling / harms experienced were also monitored to try and ensure that this research involved people with diverse experiences – this was our “secondary sampling criteria”.

Interviews were conducted in June and July 2023, lasted up to 60 minutes, and took place over the phone or online (MS Teams).

This study was approved by NatCen’s Research Ethics Committee.