It is suspected that elementary school age children engage in "the choking game" or other asphyxial practices, but the prevalence is unknown.
Objective: This study was conducted to determine the prevalence among 2nd and 3rd graders.
Methods: Twenty-five schools in a region in Southeastern France were sampled on the following criteria: school size, rural/urban location, underprivileged neighborhood or not, and private/public school. Second and third grade classes were randomly sampled in each school. Another sample of 25 schools was selected in case a school refused to participate. A self-administered questionnaire, previously validated in two nonsampled schools, was administered in selected classes by the pediatrician leading the project.
Results: A total of 1125 questionnaires were distributed and 95% were completed. The mean (SD) age of children was 8.3 (0.7) years. Forty percent of children reported they had already played choking games. Among all the declared players (n=401), the male to female ratio was 1.4; 13% of them played this game every day or several times a day (91% were male). This prevalence varied between schools (16-75%) and games and was significantly higher among children schooled in underprivileged neighborhoods. Seventy-six percent of non-players and 48% of players were aware of the potential life-threatening risk.
Conclusions: The mean prevalence in elementary school (40%) appears to be higher compared to middle and high schools (5-10%). Motivation differs in elementary school children compared to older children and teenagers. Prevention of choking games should start at elementary school and determinants leading to the continuation of such practices from elementary school to high school need to be explored.
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