GambleAware research shows online surveys can overestimate prevalence of gambling harm

GambleAware has published research which discusses the differences in gambling surveys and how these differences can skew results.

The research was commissioned to improve research around the harms of gambling, and understand the “true demand” for treatment and support for gambling harms.

It uses eight different surveys to explain how the methodological factors in each one can create different results.

The key finding was that surveys which exclusively use online self-completion responses produce higher estimates of gambling harm, compared to those which take paper completed-responses as part of a face-to-face interview.

GambleAware says this is due to selection bias, since online surveys are better suited to those comfortable using online technologies; according to GambleAware these people are more likely to be online gamblers, therefore, online surveys will over-estimate gambling harm.

GambleAware says that due to the rising cost of in-person surveying, gambling harm research could move online, but needs to be combined with methodical testing and development to remove the selection bias.

However, the charity adds that in-person surveying should be not removed completely; probability sampling and face-to-face interviews can still be used to provide periodic benchmarks.

Professor Patrick Sturgis, Department of Methodology at the London School of Economics, said: “Our research has found that online surveys tend to systematically overestimate the prevalence of gambling harm compared to face-to-face interview surveys.

“However, given the very high and rising cost of in-person surveying, and the limits this places on sample size and the frequency of surveys, we recommend a shift to predominantly online data collection in future, supplemented by periodic in person benchmarks.”

Alison Clare, Research, Information and Knowledge Director at GambleAware, added:  “We want our prevention, treatment, and support commissioning to be informed by the best available evidence, and having survey data we can be confident in, within the constraints of data collection in an increasingly online world, is key.

“GambleAware’s annual GB Treatment & Support survey is an important tool in building a picture of the stated demand for gambling harms support and treatment, and of the services, capacity and capability needed across Great Britain to meet that demand.”