Assessment of the effects of khat consumption on the wellbeing of families in Meru County, Kenya
Mugambi, Ruth Kagwiria
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This study assessed the effects of Khat consumption on the wellbeing of families in Meru County. Wellbeing is a condition of holistic health in all its dimensions, namely; physical, social, and psychological. Accordingly, this study endeavoured to establish the prevalence of Khat consumption in Meru County; to find out the socio-economic drivers of Khat consumption; to determine the effects of Khat consumption on the physical health of consumers’ families; to establish the influence of Khat consumption on the social health and psychological aspects of Khat consumers’ families. The study adopted a descriptive cross-sectional research design. Meru County was purposively selected for this study because it is predominantly a Khat growing and consuming county. Additionally, Khat plays a major role in social occasions such as marriage negotiation process to date. Three sub-counties were purposively selected for this study due to limited financial resources. A multi-stage sampling technique involving purposive, simple random and systematic methods were used to select the county, three sub-counties, six wards and 583 respondents. Pilot study was carried out to establish content validity and reliability. Reliability was established using Cronbach’s alpha coefficient and the Likert scales used had a reliability of above 0.7. In line with ethical considerations, respondents comprised of adult family heads (male or female) of age eighteen (18) and above only. The study used primary data gathering instruments, namely, interview guides and observation checklists. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS version 16, 2007) was used in data management and analysis. In the analysis, descriptive statistics used included percentages and frequency distribution tables. These descriptive statistics were used to summarise variables into thematic areas and to convey the characteristics of key variables. Inferential statistics used included Pearson’s Chi-square and Simple Linear Regression analysis. Inferential statistics were also used to establish relationships, provide predictions and in drawing conclusions. Focus Group Discussions were carried out, summarized, categorized and emerging themes used in the discussion to augment quantitative information. Research findings revealed that Khat availability was the main driver for its consumption. The respondents consumed Khat in groups mostly with their friends, family members and business associates. The mean age of the Khat consumers was 43. Low levels of education were reported with only 16.1% having attained college/University education. Pearson’s Chi-Square (χ2) test indicated that, there was a significant relationship between hours spent chewing Khat and the wellbeing of families. Linear regression analysis indicated that, there is no relationship between Khat consumption and lack of sleep as well as consumers’ happiness. Linear regression analysis indicated that, there is a positive relationship between Khat consumption and consumers’ education status, marital instability, poor family relationships, addiction and low investment with p-values of 0.000, 0.000, 0.003, 0.003, and 0.000 respectively. It was concluded that availability of Khat and peer pressure encouraged Khat consumption, thus influencing the physical, social and psychological wellbeing of families. The study recommended that NACADA should create awareness in Khat chewing communities on the negative effects of Khat consumption. The study also recommended that, the Ministry of Agriculture through the field extension officers should engage with the Khat farmers to find alternative economic livelihoods to cut the supply chain and hence reduce Khat availability to the consumers.