Understanding gambling related harm: a proposed definition, conceptual framework, and taxonomy of harms

BMC Public Health. 2016 Jan 27;16:80. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-2747-0.


Background: Harm from gambling is known to impact individuals, families, and communities; and these harms are not restricted to people with a gambling disorder. Currently, there is no robust and inclusive internationally agreed upon definition of gambling harm. In addition, the current landscape of gambling policy and research uses inadequate proxy measures of harm, such as problem gambling symptomology, that contribute to a limited understanding of gambling harms. These issues impede efforts to address gambling from a public health perspective.

Methods: Data regarding harms from gambling was gathered using four separate methodologies, a literature review, focus groups and interviews with professionals involved in the support and treatment of gambling problems, interviews with people who gamble and their affected others, and an analysis of public forum posts for people experiencing problems with gambling and their affected others. The experience of harm related to gambling was examined to generate a conceptual framework. The catalogue of harms experienced were organised as a taxonomy.

Results: The current paper proposes a definition and conceptual framework of gambling related harm that captures the full breadth of harms that gambling can contribute to; as well as a taxonomy of harms to facilitate the development of more appropriate measures of harm.

Conclusions: Our aim is to create a dialogue that will lead to a more coherent interpretation of gambling harm across treatment providers, policy makers and researchers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive
  • Focus Groups
  • Gambling / economics
  • Gambling / epidemiology
  • Gambling / prevention & control*
  • Harm Reduction*
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Public Health*
  • Public Policy