The Ministerial Council on Gambling has nominated six national research priorities for gambling research. Gambling Research Australia oversees the research agenda. The report has been prepared in response to the third of six national research priorities for gambling research. This priority involves conducting research into: Best approaches to early intervention and prevention.

GRA commissioned Monash University to undertake the research study Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Studies on Early Intervention and Prevention for Problem Gambling. The purpose of the study was to determine which primary prevention measures work, which do not work and why. A literature search was conducted to identify trials investigating the effectiveness of primary interventions on problem gambling. Using a systematic review approach, researchers assessed the eligibility and relevance of studies thereby reducing errors and results that may be due to chance or bias.

Summary

Systematic review and meta-analysis of studies on early intervention and prevention for problem gamblers. Thirteen studies were included in the review with a total of 20 outcomes recorded. However, only four of the outcomes were derived from sufficient similarity in intervention, sample and result area to be included in the meta-analysis. Once the data from the systematic review was extracted, the meta-analysis was performed. The interventions used in the studies were delivered in several formats that included:

  • video only;
  • lectures and activities;
  • video plus lectures and activities;
  • educational programmes;
  • warning messages; and
  • self-help workbook and a motivational interview.

Outcomes derived from the meta-analysis included:

  • Gambling attitudes and misconceptions: nine studies; assessed the impacts of a variety of interventions on improving gambling attitude and decreasing misconceptions. Seven of these found that there were positive benefits favouring intervention.
  • Changes in gambling knowledge: seven studies; assessed the impact of a variety of interventions on improving gambling knowledge. Six of the studies favoured interventions.
  • Gambling behaviour: six studies assessed the impact of interventions in improving a range of gambling behaviours. (The results could not be included in the meta-analysis due to the variability in measurement tools and lack of data reported.)
  • Coping and problem resolution: two studies report on the impact of the intervention on improving coping and problem resolution skills. It was found that intervention had a positive impact on improving coping and problem resolution skills.

The authors caution (page 59 of the report) that the results from this study should be treated with caution as they are based on a small number of methodological flawed studies. The findings of the study included:

  • That intervention should be psycho-educational in order to increase awareness of risks associated with gambling and help develop coping and problem resolution skills.
  • The most promising and effective form of intervention was considered the video-activity lecture combination.
  • That appropriate trained personnel are required to implement the intervention.