PGSI Study by GambleAware

PGSI Study by GambleAware

GambleAware, a leading organization dedicated to combating problem gambling, has released a groundbreaking report shedding light on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). This index comprises nine questions aimed at assessing gambling behavior and is widely used to gauge the extent and scale of gambling problems. While the PGSI is a valuable tool, it has not been developed as a clinical instrument, raising questions about its optimal use in identifying and measuring gambling harms. In response to these concerns, GambleAware commissioned Ipsos UK to delve deeper into the nature of this index.

The PGSI: An Overview

The PGSI scale comprises nine questions, each designed to gauge various aspects of an individual’s gambling behavior. While the PGSI is instrumental in identifying those at risk of gambling-related harm, it’s essential to understand that it is not a clinical diagnostic tool. This limitation has sparked debate within the gambling research community about how best to employ the PGSI for harm reduction purposes.

A Comprehensive Analysis

To address these concerns, GambleAware partnered with Ipsos UK to conduct an extensive study. This study harnessed advanced statistical methods and analyzed data from over 21,000 participants drawn from the 2020 and 2021 waves of the Annual GB Treatment and Support Survey, which was commissioned by GambleAware.

The findings of this research are enlightening. Despite its limitations, the PGSI scale continues to be a useful tool for estimating the potential risk of gambling harm. One significant revelation is the strong and consistent link between higher PGSI scores and higher rates of psychological distress. This correlation suggests that the PGSI scale can play a vital role in planning mental health interventions for individuals who score highly on the scale.

Distinguishing Levels of Harm

The analysis also brought to light an intriguing aspect of the PGSI. Not all PGSI questions carry the same weight when it comes to indicating the severity of harm. For instance, questions related to borrowing money for gambling, financial problems caused by gambling, and the need to gamble more for the same thrill are more likely to indicate severe harm. On the other hand, questions about feelings of guilt or chasing losses seemed to indicate relatively less harm. This raises essential questions about whether each PGSI item should be weighted equally when using it as a clinical or screening tool.

Optimal Utilization of the PGSI

The study’s recommendations offer valuable insights for both researchers and practitioners. The research suggests that the full PGSI questionnaire, comprising all nine questions, should be used whenever possible. In cases where there is limited interaction with individuals being tested, the short-form PGSI (consisting of three questions) may be employed. However, it’s crucial to note that using the short-form PGSI can potentially miss some cases of ‘problem gambling,’ leading to an understatement of the prevalence of this issue compared to the full PGSI.

Perspectives from the Experts

Haroon Chowdry, Director of Evidence & Insights at GambleAware, expressed his thoughts on the study’s outcomes, stating, “The PGSI scale has long been an important tool for understanding the scale of gambling harms at both the individual and population levels. We commissioned this independent study because we wanted to take a closer look at the features of this index, how exactly it varies, and how well it captures different kinds of harm, which has not been analyzed before.”

Chowdry continued, “We are reassured by the findings that the PGSI generally works well as an index and can identify different levels of harm, although there are areas where the scale or how it is used may be able to be improved. We hope treatment services, clinicians, and policymakers will take note of the recommendations to ensure they are making the best use of this scale to help those experiencing gambling harms.”

Steven Ginnis, Research Director at Ipsos UK, offered his insights into the study’s implications, saying, “The results of this study increase the knowledge base on the PGSI scale and confirm that it should continue to be used to estimate the potential risk of ‘problem gambling’ among large groups. However, the findings suggest PGSI is unlikely to work as well on its own as a diagnostic instrument for individuals or for screening purposes. We therefore recommend that PGSI users and practitioners also look beyond the broad classification groupings – not all people within a PGSI classification are at the same potential risk of harm from gambling.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI)?
The PGSI is a set of nine questions used to assess gambling behavior and identify the extent of gambling problems.

Is the PGSI a clinical diagnostic tool?
No, the PGSI is not designed as a clinical instrument, and its use for diagnosing individuals is a subject of debate.

What did the GambleAware study reveal about the PGSI?
The study found that the PGSI is effective in estimating the potential risk of gambling harm, especially in relation to psychological distress.

Are all PGSI questions equally indicative of harm?
No, some questions, like borrowing money for gambling and experiencing financial problems, are more likely to indicate severe harm, while others like feeling guilty or chasing losses suggest relatively less harm.

Which form of the PGSI is recommended for use?
The study recommends using the full PGSI questionnaire with all nine questions whenever possible. The short-form PGSI should be used when direct interaction is limited.

What are the potential implications of using the short-form PGSI?
Using the short-form PGSI may lead to the underestimation of the prevalence of ‘problem gambling’ as it may miss some cases.

How should policymakers and treatment services utilize the PGSI?
The study suggests that policymakers and treatment services should consider the study’s recommendations to enhance the utility of the PGSI in helping those affected by gambling harms.

What was the major finding of the PGSI study regarding psychological distress?
The study revealed a strong and consistent link between higher PGSI scores and higher rates of psychological distress.

Can the PGSI be used for individual diagnosis?
While it can provide insights, the PGSI is unlikely to work well as a standalone diagnostic tool for individuals.

How can the PGSI be improved for more accurate harm assessment?
The study recommends looking beyond broad classification groupings and considering individual characteristics and risk factors to better assess harm from gambling.


I have over 10 years' experience proofreading and editing where spelling and grammar were paramount. This includes newspaper publication and designing advertisements. I personally write all my articles.This allows me to do in-depth research and provide premium content.