'Choking Game' Linked to Other Risk Behaviors in Young Teens

Activity associated with sexual activity and substance use, tendency to participate more than once

MONDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- About 6 percent of Oregon male and female eighth-graders participate in the "choking game," an activity in which children apply pressure to the neck to limit oxygen and blood flow in the hopes of experiencing a euphoric feeling once the pressure is released and blood and oxygen rush back to the brain; and participation in this activity is linked to other risk behaviors, according to research published online April 16 in Pediatrics.

To evaluate the prevalence and risk behaviors associated with the choking game, Sarah K. Ramowski, M.S.W., of the Oregon Health Authority in Portland, and colleagues used cross-sectional data obtained from the 2009 Oregon Healthy Teens survey of 5,348 eighth-graders. The survey included questions about physical and mental health, sexual activity, nutrition, body image, exposure to violence, and substance use.

The researchers found that approximately 6.1 percent of Oregon eighth-graders had participated in the choking game; no gender difference was observed. Of these, 64 percent had participated more than once and 26.6 percent had participated more than five times. Among males, blacks were more likely to participate than whites. Among females and males, Pacific Islanders were more likely to participate than whites. Sexual activity and substance use were significantly associated with participation in the choking game by both males and females. Among girls, participation was associated with gambling and poor nutrition, and in males, participation was linked with exposure to violence.

"Previous research has shown that pediatricians and family practitioners have limited recognition of youth participation in the choking game," the authors write. "With a prevalence rate of ~6 percent among Oregon eighth-graders, this study reinforces previous data about participation prevalence. It also adds that most of those who participate will put themselves at risk more than once."

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