Pacific youth gambling begins at home

01 Jul, 2019
Dr Maria Bellringer

New report funded by the Ministry of Health reveals that gambling among Pacific youth is a social activity that mostly takes place with family and friends.

More than half of the 17-year olds surveyed reported that their parents or caregivers gambled. One in five were worried or anxious about a family member’s gambling. And, one in nine had experienced at least one household problem as a result of a family member’s gambling.

Almost a third of Pacific youth had gambled for money in the previous year. The most common activities were placing bets with family and friends, and betting on sports matches and card games.

Dr Maria Bellringer, lead author of the report and Associate Director of the Gambling and Addictions Research Centre at AUT, says youth gambling occurs within the context of gambling being common behaviour in families.

“A significant minority of Pacific youth are experiencing harmful or risky gambling behaviour in their family. This is important, not just because of the harm experienced but because these youth have increased risk of being gamblers themselves – though the relationship is complex and there are likely to be other interconnecting factors,” says Dr Bellringer.

The research is part of AUT’s Pacific Islands Families (PIF) study – a longitudinal cohort study of Pacific children, all of whom were born at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital in 2000, and their parents.

An extensive set of gambling-related questions was included in surveys and responses were gathered from more than 600 children in the cohort at the ages of nine years, 14 years and, most recently, at 17 years in 2017.

The longitudinal nature of the study has provided useful insights into changes in gambling behaviours and risk factors over time, as well as the social, family and environmental factors associated with gambling.

The research found that gambling was as common as tobacco and marijuana use, but less common than alcohol consumption.

“Gambling is one of several risky behaviours that has increased as the youth aged. Trying risky behaviours is a normal part of being an adolescent but becomes problematic when it starts to cause harm. While one in 62 youth were gambling problematically at age 17, a quarter of them had also been gambling in a harmful way three years earlier,” says Dr Bellringer.

While gambling was an infrequent activity for most Pacific youth, one in three gambled daily and one in 83 gambled for more than three hours a day.

Youth who gambled on dice and played games online for money were likely to gamble more frequently. Youth who gambled on dice and bingo were likely to spend more money – one in 10 spent $50.00 or more a week on these activities. One in five gamblers had stolen money to gamble.

In addition to investigating the extent of gambling and problem gambling, the research assessed the risk factors around participation and expenditure. For Pacific youth, the most significant risk factors were gang affiliation, either directly or through family and friends, and gender – boys were twice as likely to gamble.

Dr El-Shadan Tautolo, Director of AUT’s Centre for Pacific Health and Development Research and the PIF study, says that gambling within families together with risky behaviour among a significant minority highlights the need for tailored information, education and public health resources to support Pacific families and reduce the harm from gambling.

“A holistic and culturally appropriate approach is likely to be more effective in reducing the harm from problem gambling and addressing further commonly related issues, such as mental health, family violence and other cross addictions,” says Dr Tautolo.

The research shows that Pacific youth mostly sought help for gambling from friends. Less than 10 percent of those surveyed sought help from adults, including teachers, guidance counsellors, parents and other family members.

“This preference for seeking help from peers rather than trusted adults indicates that we should be looking at public health awareness and prevention approaches that empower Pacific youth to adequately respond and act as catalysts for behavioural change,” says Dr Tautolo.

For confidential help or advice with problem gambling contact the Gambling Helpline by phoning 0800 654 655, or texting 8006.

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