A new study commissioned by GambleAware has found that conducting online surveys of UK players can lead to skewed and "inflated" data on problem games.
A study by London School of Economics professors Patrick Sturgis and Jone Kuha examines how methodological differences between surveys affect the accuracy of gambling harm estimates.
The project was launched after a 2019 YouGov study found that the level of harm from gambling is significantly higher than previously estimated in the 2018 England Health Study, which used the Gambling Problem Severity Index (PGSI).
The discrepancy has raised concerns about the true level of harm from gambling in the UK adult population and GambleAware has seen fit to launch this latest project.
Researchers have found that predominantly or entirely online self-completion surveys yield higher gambling harm scores than paper questionnaires and face-to-face interviews.
Other potential causes of this discrepancy, such as true change over time, differences in population coverage, and differential measurement errors, were excluded by the researchers.
“These inconsistencies in sample composition are likely responsible for the differences we observed in the level of harm from gambling,” the report says.
“Through self-selection processes, online surveys are shifting towards people who are more online and 'tech-savvy' and, unsurprisingly, such people are more likely to be online gamblers compared to people who gamble in person.
“If samples contain a disproportionate number of online and frequent gamblers (compared to the general population), surveys will tend to overestimate harm from gambling because, as we have been able to demonstrate, online and frequent gambling gaming independently is associated with a higher likelihood of harm from gambling. “, — said in the message.
The professors suggested that online surveys should continue due to their lower cost and that the measurement of gambling-related harm should move entirely online in the future.
“The move to online interviewing should be combined with a program of methodological testing and development, focusing on strategies to reduce selection bias and improve the accuracy of gambling harm measurements,” the report added.
However, the researchers recommended that in-person observation of the players continue on a regular but infrequent basis to validate the scores from the online surveys and provide a constant benchmark for evaluating the effectiveness of this study.
Addressing the report's findings, GambleAware Research Director Alison Clare said: "We want our prevention, treatment, and support services to be based on the best available evidence and have survey data we can rely on, within the limitations of data collection in all more growing environment. online world, that's the key.
"GambleAware's annual survey is an important tool for building a picture of the stated demand for support and treatment for gambling harm, and the services, facilities and facilities needed in the UK to meet that demand," Clare added.