Challenges in the Conceptualisation and Measurement of Gambling-Related Harm

  • Paul DelfabbroEmail author
  • Daniel L. King
Review Paper


This paper examines the significance of recent developments in research relating to gambling-related harm. Previous research, it is argued, has failed to capture gambling-harm in a way that is useful to inform public policy and regulation. This is because most standardised psychometric measures and the DSM classifications have conflated gambling behaviour and harm and mostly focused on serious harms. As a result, little has generally been known about the prevalence of harm in lower risk gambling groups. Here we summarise the findings from recent harm research, the methodologies used and their conceptual implications. It is argued that strong progress has been made in the categorization and measurement of gambling harm, but that caution must be applied when applying these measures to estimate the ‘burden of disease’ associated with gambling in the community. Particular issues discussed include: the differentiation of opportunity cost and harm; the validity of additive methods involving different severities of measured harm; using comparisons with unfamiliar disorders; and the validity of prevention paradox arguments in this area of research.


Gambling harm Quality of life Problem gambling Low risk gambling Disability Opportunity cost 



This paper was not supported by any funding. Both Professor Delfabbro and Dr. King’s gambling research is funded entirely consultancy work or grants received from government agencies. Both authors, from time to time, undertake peer reviews for funding bodies such as the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, GambleAware, Alberta Research Institute and other similar bodies.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Neither author reports any conflict of interest in the preparation of this manuscript.

Ethical Statement

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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