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Update on Gambling Commission research actions to support the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms Published Date: 21/10/2019

The Gambling Commission has been progressing the delivery of its Research Programme to support the delivery of the National Strategy. The programme is made up of projects designed to fill evidence gaps and inform policy and action. Notably, in recent months progress has been made in:


- recommendations for the implementing the [word document opens in new window] framework to measure and monitor gambling-related harms.


- recommendations to inform the development of a longitudinal study


- Improving understanding of links between gambling and suicide, further to the research published on 19 July 2019. 


In order to deliver these significant pieces of work the Commission are working to develop partnerships and funding arrangements with research institutions with the relevant expertise and capacity. This activity will then lead to commissioning and delivery within appropriate research infrastructures.


Developing the harms framework


Understanding and measuring gambling-related harms is one of the Gambling Commission’s top priorities and is key to developing harm prevention measures. Further to the publication of the  harms framework, the London School of Economics (LSE) were commissioned to help to scope different methodologies for estimating the social costs of gambling-related harms, review approaches taken in other jurisdictions and make recommendations on which methods are most feasible. 


Developing a longitudinal study


The Commission's Research Programme identifies the long-term need for longitudinal research to better understand how people gamble and inform the development of effective prevention and treatment approaches. NatCen Social Research and Dr Heather Wardle were commissioned to conduct a  scoping review, including a rapid consultation with key stakeholders, to explore the methodological options for conducting longitudinal research in this field. The review recommended a new multi-cohort study combining a general population sample with further samples of other core groups including engaged gamblers, young people and gamblers who have sought support. The development of a large-scale study of this kind will ensure  focus resources on understanding processes that can lead to harm and recovery for key population groups. 


Improving an understanding of links between gambling and suicide


Earlier this year the Commission and partners published important research exploring the link between problem gambling and suicide. Using data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007, it demonstrated that one in twenty problem gamblers attempted suicide in the past year and one in five thought about suicide, rates five times higher than for the rest of the population. The research included a number of recommendations for further action, which the Commission are now working with partners to implement. As  recommendations are progressed, the Commission has committed to continuing  to share updates and engage with a wide range of relevant stakeholders. The actions that are being taken range from immediate deliverables to identify and support those at risk of harm, further research to fill evidence gaps, and applying the evidence base to developing effective universal and targeted prevention measures.


Identify and support those at risk of harm:


The National Gambling Helpline is extending its hours and will now operate 24-hours a day. The helpline provides advice, information and support around the clock to those suffering from gambling related harm, whether their own or someone else’s. Given that a wide range of gambling activities are now available throughout the night, a time when people experiencing problems may feel the most isolated, this is an important step in ensuring that support is available 24/7, 365 days a year, to those who need it.


The Samaritans will be working with the Commission and GamCare to bolster the existing requirements on gambling businesses to identify those at risk and take action to address and reduce harm. This will include guidance to ensure that operators are responding appropriately to risks around suicide.


Further research to fill evidence gaps:


Since the report was published the Department for Health and Social Care has confirmed that the  Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) will take place in 2021, and that there will be a consultation on the survey content. The Commission have shared proposals that the survey reinstates gambling questions and will be responding to the consultation in due course. When the survey is public, the Commission will make information available so that interested parties can also respond.


The Commission are working with partners to progress towards a longitudinal study, to be delivered within appropriate research infrastructures. The recommendations to inform the development of this longitudinal have been published, which will be vital in understanding risk factors and trajectories to suicide and suicidal behaviours and exploring causality.


Te feasibility of three further areas of research to fill evidence gaps is also being explored. The first is a psychological autopsy study to understand the events and circumstances that lead gamblers to end their lives. The second is a qualitative study with those bereaved through suicide where gambling was a factor; gamblers with a history of suicidal behaviours; and professional care providers. The third is assessing coronal data for the viability of research and data improvements.  The Commission would be keen for any partners with an interest in working in these three areas of research to contact them.


Developing effective universal and targeted prevention measures:


It is key that the findings from research are turned into action. The Gambling Commission is committed to applying the research findings to universal measures such as the restriction of products or features that increase the risk of harm, and to embedding the learnings of research to develop targeted and selected measures for tools and messaging to support safer gambling. The implementations map and overview set out some of these measures both by the Gambling Commission and by partners.