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Impact case study

Psychosocial Impact of Gaming

Unit(s) of assessment: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Research theme: Safety and Security of Citizens and Society

School: School of Social Sciences


Professor Mark Griffiths, an acknowledged world expert on behavioural addictions, leads the International Gaming Research Unit (IGRU) at NTU. Griffiths is a major contributor to the evidence base on behavioural addiction. His work has established how attitudes and key socio-demographic variables impact on the health-related consequences of problem gambling and gambling addiction.

Research by Griffiths and his team into the psychosocial impact of gambling has had a major impact in the following key areas:

  • changing public policy and services
  • product development
  • health and welfare.

Public policy and services The IGRU's work has been used to formulate policy in Norway, Finland, Israel, and Australia, as well as the UK. For example, Griffiths' work on the effects of slot gambling machines on public health was used by policy makers in both Norway and the UK.

In Norway, Griffiths gave evidence to the Supreme Court in Oslo as the Norwegian Government's expert witness. As a consequence of Griffiths' testimony, Norway banned slot machines in 2008 until less harmful and more socially responsible machines were designed.

Griffiths' work was also central to the UK parliamentary Culture, Media and Sport Committee's debate on slot machines and their psychosocial impact.

Product development Griffiths, with Dr. Richard Wood and Dr. Jonathan Parke, developed a tool to help game developers design more responsible lower-risk games for vulnerable and susceptible individuals. This led to the commercial development of GAM-GaRD (Gambling Assessment Measure: Guidance about Responsible Design). In 2010, Griffiths and Wood developed the Nova Scotia Responsible Gambling Impact Index (NS-RG-II) that has now been incorporated into the previous tool and is sold and licensed as GAM-GaRD 2.0.

The tool is now a commercially available product used by over 30 gaming companies and gambling regulators around the world. In 2010, the World Lottery Association recommended that all its companies use this tool as part of their social responsibility accreditation procedures.

GAM-GaRD pinpoints ten potentially addictive characteristics of games and offers companies practical ways to reduce the risk of players developing gambling problems by altering the games' structural characteristics.

Health and welfare The IGRU, along with the charity TACADE, were commissioned by the Responsibility in Gambling Trust to devise educational materials for schools about young people and gambling, based on over two decades of Griffiths' research on adolescent gambling.

The team developed two resource packs: You Bet! Gambling educational materials for young people aged 11-16 Years, and Just another game? Gambling educational materials for young people aged 13-19 years. 10,000 of these resource packs were distributed across secondary schools in England and Wales and Professor Griffiths disseminated the resources at ten regional seminars.

The You Bet! resources were accredited for use in the National Curriculum in 2009. In 2011, and national gambling charity GamCare (a charity that Griffiths co-founded in 1997) recommended that all schools use the resources.

Traditionally, the term 'addiction' has been associated with substance use but in May 2013, gambling became the first non-substance activity to be officially classed as a behavioural addiction in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Griffiths' large body of work played an important part in the decision and he was on one of the working parties that helped formulate the parameters of gambling disorder as a behavioural addiction.

Research background

Griffiths co-wrote the British Gambling Prevalence Surveys of 2007 and 2011 which revealed that 0.6%-0.9% of the British population aged 16+ years were problem gamblers. Funded by bodies including the Responsibility in Gambling Trust, the Gambling Commission and the Economic and Social Research Council, his work has identified the personal costs for problem gamblers including irritability, extreme moodiness, problems with personal relationships (including divorce), absenteeism from work, neglect of family and bankruptcy.

In Griffiths' report for the British Medical Association in 2007 (following up an influential 2004 paper in the British Medical Journal), he highlighted the diverse detrimental health consequences for problem gamblers and their partners: depression, insomnia, intestinal disorders, migraine and other stress related disorders.

Gambling addiction is not confined to the adult population and Griffiths has researched the effects of problem gambling on adolescents. He identifies problem features as: "truanting in order to play the machines, stealing to fund machine playing, getting into trouble with teachers and/or parents over their machine playing, borrowing or using of lunch money to play the machines, poor schoolwork, and in some cases aggressive behaviour". (Griffiths, 2003). In addition, Griffiths found that slot machine addicts also display bona fide signs of addiction including withdrawal effects, tolerance, mood modification, conflict and relapse.

Griffiths' work has identified that there are structural features that gaming developers use to encourage people to gamble, such as event frequency, stake size, jackpot size, and creating the illusion of control. IGRU research has consistently shown that problem gambling tends to be associated with particular types of structural features in games. These findings can help gambling regulators, policy makers, and the gambling industry itself to design safer games and minimise the harm caused by gambling.

These findings have been used to formulate policy by national and regional governments in Norway, UK, and Canada (Quebec).


Griffiths is a prolific media commentator and has appeared in thousands of media articles over the last few years and appeared on over 3,000 radio and television programmes. He writes regularly for the national press and has had columns in The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, The Sun and the Daily Mirror.

Media coverage

Testimonial letters

Testimonial letters were received from:

  • Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, 2001-2007
  • Royal Norwegian Ministry of Culture
  • Former CEO, Norsk Tipping corroborating Griffiths' impact on Norwegian legislation.
  • Gerry Sutcliffe, Minister for Sport, 2007-2010


Griffiths has published over 500 refereed journal papers including:

  • Wood, R.T.A. and Griffiths, M.D., 1998. The acquisition, development and maintenance of lottery and scratchcard gambling in adolescence. Journal of Adolescence, 21, 265-273.
  • Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A., 2000. Risk factors in adolescence: The case of gambling, video-game playing and the internet. Journal of Gambling Studies, 16, 199-225.
  • Griffiths, M.D., Davies, M.N.O. and Chappell, D., 2004. Online computer gaming: A comparison of adolescent and adult gamers. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 87-96.
  • Wood, R.T.A., Griffiths, M.D., Chappell, D. and Davies, M.N.O., 2004. The structural characteristics of games: A psycho-structural analysis. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 7, 1-10.
  • Griffiths, M.D., 2003. Internet gambling: Issues, concerns and recommendations. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 6, 557-568.
  • Griffiths, M.D., Wardle, J., Orford, J., Sproston, K. and Erens, B., (2009). Socio-demographic correlates of internet gambling: findings from the 2007 British Gambling Prevalence Survey. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 12, 199-202.