Gambling risk amongst adolescents: Evidence from a school-based survey in the Malaysian setting

Abstract

There has been emerging evidence regarding gambling experiences of young people in Asia recently, but to date, none in Malaysia. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of gambling, and to identify individual, familial and high-risk behaviours factors among Malaysian adolescents. A cross-sectional study was conducted over 4 months at randomly selected secondary schools in Seremban in Negeri Sembilan state. A total of 2265 self-administered, anonymous questionnaires were distributed to the students. The students completed the questionnaire consisting of sociodemographic and family background, gambling behaviours, high risk behaviours and mental health questions. Approximately 29.6 % (95 % CI 27.7-31.5) of respondents reported participating in some forms of gambling activities in the previous 12 months. Among these, 3.6 % (95 % CI 2.8-4.3) of them were problem gamblers. Parental gambling was the strongest correlate with adolescent gambling behaviour. Signification association was found between gambling behaviour and gender (being males), but interestingly, not with ethnicity. Adolescents who reported engaging in high risk behaviours (such as smoking, alcohol consumption, involvement in physical fights, illegal vehicular racing) were also more likely to gamble. Gambling is not an uncommon phenomenon amongst Malaysian adolescents. Public awareness campaign, health education to targeted groups, revision of existing laws, and screening at primary care level should be implemented to address the issue of gambling among adolescents. This study also highlights the need to examine the national scope of the problem in Malaysia.

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