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Gaming May Benefit Mental Health, Industry Research Finds

by : Emily Brown on : 18 Jun 2021 13:11
Gaming May Benefit Mental Health, New Study FindsPA/Katie Collins/EMPICS

Researchers have found video games show ‘great promise’ for benefitting the mental health issues of depression and anxiety. 

The impacts and effects video games have on players have long been debated by fans, creators, scientists and even politicians, but their benefits have been highlighted in a paper by researchers at Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software.

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The paper focuses specifically on addressing symptoms of depression and anxiety, with the team at Lero, a world leader in connected-health research, citing existing research to suggest that commercial video games could be ‘inexpensive, readily accessible, internationally available, effective, and stigma-free resources’ to help tackle the issues.

Person playing video game (Pexels)Pexels

Depression and anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health disorders in the general population, the researchers explain, with 264 million people and 284 million people, respectively, adversely affected.

While a significant proportion of those affected by the issues do not receive treatment, the researchers note that it is ‘imperative’ to ‘effectively disseminate treatment’, suggesting video games with their wide availability may be a way to do this.

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Citing a series of studies, the researchers present findings that certain video games helped decrease depressive moods by ‘promoting enjoyment, flow states, and motivation,’ tackle general anxiety ‘both immediately after play and maintained with continual play,’ and help players cope ‘with strong emotions and regulating strong emotive experiences.’

Evidence referred to in the paper, published in JMIR Publications, also shows video games help to evoke emotions such as joy, happiness and appreciation, as well as feelings of social connectedness in individuals, which can help tackle depressive feelings.

Two people playing video games (Pexels)Pexels

The study explains:

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Given the abovementioned links and accepting that the pandemic has entailed less movement and social restrictions, commercially available web-based multiplayer games might be a potentially viable tool to connect isolated individuals.

When it comes to anxiety, games have been proven to help treat general symptoms of anxiety, reduce measures of social anxiety and promote anxiety prevention.

Many video games are available for free or with a one-time payment, and the authors of the paper explain they also possess many important features such as design, user engagement and immersive state of flow to make them effective as a ‘preventative tool or for supplementing traditional therapies in the treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders.’

With these factors in mind, the team at Lero conclude that commercial video games are an ‘invaluable means of reaching individuals with mental health disorders,’ no matter what their age or how they identify, as well as a ‘potential alternative for the improvement of various aspects of mental health globally.’

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If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Gaming, Anxiety, depression, Mental Health, Now, video games

Credits

JMIR Publications
  1. JMIR Publications

    Gaming Your Mental Health: A Narrative Review on Mitigating Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety Using Commercial Video Games