Treatment Needs and Gap Analysis report queries the true level of gambling harm prevalence

GambleAware has published a Treatment Needs and Gap Analysis report that sets out the findings of research commissioned to examine gambling treatment and support services in Great Britain. Principal aspects of the report are:

  • One in two problem gamblers (PGSI score of 8+) in Great Britain have not accessed any treatment or support, while 17% of those gamblers experiencing any level of harm (PGSI score of 1+), report having used some type of treatment or support in the past 12 months.
  • There exist a number of barriers to accessing treatment and support, such as a lack of awareness of available services, social stigma (27% of problem gamblers were likely to experience stigma or shame), or reluctance to admit gambling problems, with nearly one in five (17%) problem gamblers saying that their gambling was not harmful.
  • Women, BAME communities and individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may not be having their treatment and support needs adequately met, and recommends the provision of more flexible options.
  • A population level survey by YouGov, independently assessed by Professor Patrick Sturgis, shows that 54-61% of the population had gambled in the last 12 months, with 2.7% of the population scoring a PGSI 8+. In his assessment, Sturgis concluded the true level of gambling harm prevalence lies closer to the Combined Health Survey result of 0.7% of the population, rather than the 2.7% of the YouGov population survey.

Commenting on the research, GambleAware Chief Executive, Marc Etches has said:

This research has shown that there is a clear need to further strengthen and improve the existing treatment and support on offer, to develop routes into treatment and to reduce barriers to accessing help. Services have to be flexible to meet the needs of individuals and easy to access. This research shows how the need for support and the way it is accessed may vary according to gender and demographic factors such as ethnic group, location or whether a person has additional health needs.

Meeting the needs highlighted in this report will require partnerships between the statutory and voluntary sectors, both those services specific to gambling treatment and other health and support provisions. Working with those with lived experiences is essential in designing and promoting access to services, as well as helping to prevent relapse. It is important to engage community institutions including faith groups, to help make more people aware of the options available to them and ensure no one feels excluded from services.

Dr Sokratis Dinos, Research Director at the National Centre for Social Research, has commented:

A recurrent theme across this programme of studies was related to a lack of awareness of, or hesitation to accept, that gambling behaviour may be harmful. Gambling harms can have a negative impact on the perception of oneself often owing to the associated ‘stigma’. Continuing to develop education programmes and public messaging about the way gambling disorder is perceived, and the development of peer-based, as well as tailored treatment and support services for groups less likely to access those provisions, would help to address this and, in turn, contribute towards reducing barriers to seeking treatment and support.

Professor Patrick Sturgis has commented:

In order to identify gaps in gambling treatment and support services in Great Britain, researchers need to understand the size and characteristics of the group who experience gambling harms. The 2016 Combined Health Surveys used probability sampling and respondent self-completion during face-to-face interviewing, whereas the YouGov survey used a non-probability sample and online self-completion. These differences in sampling and mode of interview are likely to be driving the difference in the estimates of gambling harm between the two surveys. It is impossible to say with certainty which of the two surveys comes closest to the true level of gambling harm in the general population. However, after studying and comparing the two survey designs at length, it seems likely that the true rate of gambling harm lies somewhere between the two, though it is probably closer to the Combined Health Surveys estimate of 0.7% than to the YouGov estimate of 2.7%.

You can download below GambleAware’s press release, the above-mentioned report and a briefing presentation on the report’s findings.

Commenting on the report an article in The Guardian entitled “UK gambling addiction much worse than thought, says survey” quotes Labour MP Carolyn Harris, Chair of the All Parliamentary Gambling Related Harm APPG, describing the report as “deeply concerning”, adding:

While the rate of 2.7% could well be an overestimate, the health survey data seems to be a significant underestimate. This new data suggests that addiction levels are far higher than has been previously thought. Policymakers, the regulator and gambling support services must take note of these important findings and ensure that the correct provision and regulation is in place to support gamblers in the UK.

UPDATE: In light of concerns expressed by some about the inclusion of the YouGov survey within the above-mentioned research findings, GambleAware wrote to the Betting & Gaming Council on 3 June 2020. That letter (that you can also download below) concludes as follows:

Professor Sturgis does not conclude the YouGov survey is flawed, as some have suggested. On the contrary, he makes clear the high value of the findings it reveals: “I finish by noting that, even if the YouGov survey does over-estimate the true level of problem gambling prevalence in the UK, this does not mean that it is not of potentially high value in estimating the distribution of problem gambling prevalence across demographic groups in the population, its degree of stability and change over time, or of understanding the attitudes and experiences of individuals with gambling problems. This is because estimates of the patterns of association between problem gambling and these demographic and attitudinal variables will be approximately accurate, even if the level of problem gambling prevalence is over-estimated”.

Download article PDF: GambleAware letter to BGC 03.06.20