Kids Who Game Are At Lower Risk For Depression, Study Shows

There are a number of studies that show that children who regularly play video games suffer from fewer mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. A new study, published in Psychological Medicine, found that particularly during the pandemic, video games appear to be an important social platform for young people.

Lead author, PhD student Aaron Kandola (UCL Psychiatry) says that previous studies often linked sedentary behaviour with increased risk of depression and anxiety in adolescents. The research team from UCL, Karolinska Institutet (Sweden) and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute (Australia) reviewed data from 11,341 adolescents.

The researchers found that 11-year-old boys who played video games daily had 24% fewer depressive symptoms, three years later, than boys who played video games less than once a month, especially boys with low physical activity levels. The researchers believe this may suggest that less active boys experience more enjoyment and social interaction from video games.

Although the study did not find that the benefits were the same among girls, other studies show that girls do in fact benefit from gaming. A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, which interviewed 287 families with a child between 11 and 16 years old, found that girls who played age-appropriate games with a parent reported better behavior, feeling more connected to their families, and stronger mental health.

“The relationship between screen time and mental health is complex, and we still need more research to help understand it. Any initiatives to reduce young people’s screen time should be targeted and nuanced. Our research points to possible benefits of screen time; however, we should still encourage young people to be physically active and to break up extended periods of sitting with light physical activity,” Senior author Dr Mats Hallgren said.

Ultimately, both studies seem to suggest that the key factor for a positive gaming outcome is social interaction. While boys may benefit from playing virtually with friends or even strangers, girls appear to derive the same benefits from playing with their families or close friends.

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