Being bullied or involvement in a gang are risk factors for Pasifika youth taking up gambling, a new report has found.

The research, funded by the Ministry of Health, found more than half of 14-year-old Pacific youth have gambled at least once in their lifetime. One in 27 of the youth studied were problem gamblers.

The study is part of the longitudinal Pacific Islands Families Study conducted by Auckland University of Technology, which is following a cohort of Pacific children born in 2000, and their parents.

Risk factors for gambling involvement for Pacific youth included being bullied at school, gang involvement, playing computer or video games, watching television, video, DVDs, and having a mother who gambled.

PIF study director Dr El-Shadan Tautolo said it was important preventative measures were put in place to safeguard youth from problem gambling later in life.

“We know that bullying and gang involvement are risk factors for gambling. We now need to ensure interventions follow that minimise the risk of gambling involvement – working to reduce the appeal of gang affiliation and providing effective support to youth who have been bullied, so they don’t turn to harmful behaviours like gambling, are natural starting points.”

The research also found that 52 per cent of the mothers studied had gambled in the year prior to the data collection in 2014.

Risk factors for gambling participation among mothers included alcohol consumption, being a victim or perpetrator of verbal aggression, and increased deprivation levels. Retaining a high level of alignment with Pacific culture, alongside a low level of alignment with New Zealand culture, was associated with risky gambling behaviour, the study found.

Lead author of the report and associate director of AUT’s Gambling and Addictions Research Centre Dr Maria Bellring said the intergenerational gambling behaviour was a concern.

“Mothers’ gambling behaviours influence those of their children, so adult education and public health campaigns are vital to stem the negative effects of gambling and its transfer across generations.”

Dr Tautolo said as the data was collected from a large cluster of essentially Pacific families, the consequences for the wider Pacific community could be enormous.

“Clearly there needs to be a comprehensive strategy to tackle problematic gambling and related harms for Pacific people. This strategy needs to consider, among other things, the importance of advocacy, workforce development and health promotion, as key areas to address this problem.”

Māori public health organisation Hāpai Te Hauora said the alarming trends in gambling highlighted a need for community solutions.

Chief executive Lance Norman said it supported the call for a more comprehensive plan to address gambling.

“We work closely with the gambling harm prevention workforce and with affected communities. So we are pleased to see data which supports what we already know, that individual wellbeing is intrinsically linked to whānau and community wellbeing.”

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