HealthDay News — About 4% of U.S. teens surveyed admit to trying the “choking game,” a potentially deadly game of temporary strangulation, and young people who play the game alone are much more likely to harbor thoughts of suicide, according to a study published online November 21 in Pediatrics.

The study looked at mental health data on 20,832 students in grades 8 and 11 in Oregon. The information was collected in 2011 and 2013 by the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey. Oregon is the only state that routinely monitors choking game behavior in its surveys, the study authors said. 

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The researchers found that nearly 4% of both boys and girls said they had participated in a choking game at some point in their lives. Of these, 17.6% said they had done so by themselves. Teens who had tried the practice alone were almost five times more likely to have thoughts of suicide than those who had done it in groups (odds ratio, 4.58; P<0.001), and more than twice as likely to say they were in poor mental health overall (odds ratio, 2.13; P<0.05).

“Youth who participate alone in the choking game are a particularly high risk group, exhibiting substantially higher rates of suicidal ideation and poorer mental health compared with youth who participate in the choking game in a group,” the authors write. “Adolescent health care providers should be aware of these associations, assess whether prevention messaging is appropriate, and be prepared to explain the high risks of morbidity and mortality associated with participation.”

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