A randomized controlled trial of a personalized feedback intervention for problem gamblers

Abstract

Background: Personalized feedback is a promising self-help for problem gamblers. Such interventions have shown consistently positive results with other addictive behaviours, and our own pilot test of personalized normative feedback materials for gamblers yielded positive findings. The current randomized controlled trial evaluated the effectiveness, and the sustained efficacy, of the personalized feedback intervention materials for problem gamblers. Methodology/Principal Findings: Respondents recruited by a general population telephone screener of Ontario adults included gamblers with moderate and severe gambling problems. Those who agreed to participate were randomly assigned to receive: 1) the full personalized normative feedback intervention; 2) a partial feedback that contained all the feedback information provided to those in condition 1 but without the normative feedback content (i.e., no comparisons provided to general population gambling norms); or 3) a waiting list control condition. The primary hypothesis was that problem gamblers who received the personalized normative feedback intervention would reduce their gambling more than problem gamblers who did not receive any intervention (waiting list control condition) by the six-month follow-up. Conclusions/Significance: The study found no evidence for the impact of normative personalized feedback. However, participants who received, the partial feedback (without norms) reduced the number of days they gambled compared to participants who did not receive the intervention. We concluded that personalized feedback interventions were well received and the materials may be helpful at reducing gambling. Realistically, it can be expected that the personalized feedback intervention may have a limited, short term impact on the severity of participants' problem gambling because the intervention is just a brief screener. An Internet-based version of the personalized feedback intervention tool, however, may offer an easy to access and non-threatening portal that can be used to motivate participants to seek further help online or in person.

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