People with gambling problems frequently report repeated unsuccessful attempts to change their behavior. Although many behavior change techniques are available to individuals to reduce gambling harm, they can be challenging to implement or maintain. The provision of implementation support tailored for immediate, real-time, individualized circumstances may improve attempts at behavior change.
We aimed to develop and evaluate a Just-In-Time Adaptive Intervention (JITAI) for individuals who require support to adhere to their gambling limits. JITAI development is based on the principles of the Health Action Process Approach with delivery, in alignment with the principles of self-determination theory. The primary objective was to determine the effect of action- and coping planning compared with no intervention on the goal of subsequently adhering to gambling expenditure limits.
Gambling Habit Hacker is delivered as a JITAI providing in-the-moment support for adhering to gambling expenditure limits (primary proximal outcome). Delivered via a smartphone app, this JITAI delivers tailored behavior change techniques related to goal setting, action planning, coping planning, and self-monitoring. The Gambling Habit Hacker app will be evaluated using a 28-day microrandomized trial. Up to 200 individuals seeking support for their own gambling from Australia and New Zealand will set a gambling expenditure limit (ie, goal). They will then be asked to complete 3 time-based ecological momentary assessments (EMAs) per day over a 28-day period. EMAs will assess real-time adherence to gambling limits, strength of intention to adhere to goals, goal self-efficacy, urge self-efficacy, and being in high-risk situations. On the basis of the responses to each EMA, participants will be randomized to the control (a set of 25 self-enactable strategies containing names only and no implementation information) or intervention (self-enactable strategy implementation information with facilitated action- and coping planning) conditions. This microrandomized trial will be supplemented with a 6-month within-group follow-up that explores the long-term impact of the app on gambling expenditure (primary distal outcome) and a range of secondary outcomes, as well as an evaluation of the acceptability of the JITAI via postintervention surveys, app use and engagement indices, and semistructured interviews. This trial has been approved by the Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee (2020-304).
The intervention has been subject to expert user testing, with high acceptability scores. The results will inform a more nuanced version of the Gambling Habit Hacker app for wider use.
Gambling Habit Hacker is part of a suite of interventions for addictive behaviors that deliver implementation support grounded in lived experience. This study may inform the usefulness of delivering implementation intentions in real time and in real-world settings. It potentially offers people with gambling problems new support to set their gambling intentions and adhere to their limits.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12622000497707; www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=383568