Research sheds light on gambling among Pacific youth

Picture: EPIGRAM

AUCKLAND, 04 JULY 2018 (AUT) – New research funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Health has shed light on the gambling habits of Pacific youth and their mothers. Among the findings, more than half of 14-year old Pacific youth were found to have gambled at least once in their lifetime, while one-in-27 of the youth studied were problem gamblers.

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

In addition to investigating the extent of gambling and problem gambling, the study assessed risk factors for gambling participation and expenditure. In the case of Pacific youth, being bullied at school was identified as a risk factor, as was gang involvement, playing computer/video games, watching television/video/DVDs, and having a mother who gambled.

The research found that 52 percent of the Pacific mothers studied had gambled in the year prior to data collection in 2014. Overall, of all the mothers, 2.9 percent experienced a moderate level of harm and 0.7 percent were classified as problem gamblers.

Risk factors for gambling participation among mothers included alcohol consumption, being a victim or perpetrator of verbal aggression, and increased deprivation levels. Meanwhile, 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 research highlights the need to better support Pacific mothers, particularly those recently settled in New Zealand,” says Dr El-Shadan Tautolo, Director of the PIF Study.

“We need to put measures in place to support people to retain or strengthen their Pacific culture while building a sense of connection to New Zealand culture and society – as this helps build resilience to acculturative stressors and enables people to adapt well.”

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.

Dr Maria Bellringer, lead author of the report and Associate Director of AUT’s Gambling and Addictions Research Centre, underscores the intergenerational gambling behaviour identified as a key finding.

“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,” she says.

Dr Tautolo is equally mindful of the intergenerational implications across families and, as the data is collected from a large cluster of essentially Pacific family units, he says 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.”

Dr Tautolo also notes the importance of preventative measures in safeguarding Pacific youth from problem gambling later in life.

“We know that bullying and gang involvement are risk factors for gambling,” he says. “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.

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