Advantageous Effects of Video Games on the Psyche?
Computer games are often associated with negative effects on the psyche. But a recent study shows that boys who regularly play video games by the age of eleven are associated with a reduced risk of depressive symptoms.
Regular use of video games seems to protect boys from developing depression, according to a study carried out by researchers from University College London. The study was published in the English-language journal “Psychological Medicine“Published.
Influence of screen time on children
The results of the study show how different types of screen time can affect young people’s mental health positively or negatively, and that time in front of the screen of computers, smartphones and video games affects boys and girls differently, the researchers report.
Boys who regularly play video games by the age of eleven have a lower risk of developing depressive symptoms in the next three years. In addition to this protective effect, the experts also found that girls who spend more time on social media seem to develop more depressive symptoms.
Adjustment of screen time recommendations
“Screens allow us to do a variety of activities. Screen time guidelines and recommendations should be based on our understanding of how these various activities can affect mental health and whether it makes sense to do so, ”study author Aaron Kandola of University College London said in a Press release.
Video games are an important platform for social interaction
“While we cannot say whether playing video games actually improves mental health, in our study it did not appear to be harmful and could bring some benefits. Video games were an important social platform for young people, especially during the pandemic, ”adds the expert.
Kandola emphasizes the importance of reducing the time children and adults spend sitting to protect their physical and mental health. However, this does not mean that screen usage is harmful per se. The expert was previously also involved in research that found that sitting a lot in adolescents increased the risk of depressions and anxiety seems to increase in teenagers.
Screen time cause of lack of exercise
To gain more insight into the causes of this relationship, the researchers decided to look more closely at the time spent in front of screens, as it is responsible for a large part of the lack of exercise in adolescents. In addition, previous studies on this topic have shown partly contradicting results.
Many studies did not differentiate between different types of screen time and different effects on the sexes were also often ignored, the researchers report. And the number of participants in the examinations was usually not very large.
Screen time questions answered
In the current study, the data of 11,341 adolescents who are part of the so-called Millennium Cohort Study were analyzed. All participants were asked to answer questions at the age of eleven about the time they spent on social media, video games, or general internet use.
At the age of 14, the participants were then asked about depressive symptoms such as bad mood, loss of friendships and poor concentration. The questionnaire used recorded depressive symptoms and their severity in a spectrum without making a clinical diagnosis, the researchers explain.
In the analysis, the team also considered other factors that could explain the results, such as socio-economic status, level of physical activity, reports of bullying, and previous emotional symptoms.
24 percent fewer depressive symptoms from video games
The researchers found that boys who played video games most days had 24 percent fewer depressive symptoms three years later than boys who played video games less than once a month. It should be noted that this effect was only significant in boys with a low level of physical activity and was not observed at all in girls.
Experts say that this could indicate that less active boys may get more enjoyment and social interaction from video games.
Positive aspects of video games
No causal link was explicitly identified in the study, but the researchers emphasize that there are quite a few positive aspects of video games that could improve mental health, such as problem solving and social, cooperative and engaging elements.
According to the team, there could also be other explanations for the connection between video games and depression, such as differences in social contact or in the parenting style of the parents. However, the researchers did not have any data on this. The professionals also had no data on the exact daily screen time, so they cannot say how length of media use affects the risk of depression differently.
Social media increases depressive symptoms in girls
The researchers also found that girls (but not boys) who used social media most days by the age of eleven had 13 percent more depressive symptoms three years later than those who used social media less than once a month. Similar trends were previously observed in other studies. Therefore, experts suspect that frequent use of social media could increase the feeling of social isolation.
Influence of usage behavior on the results?
The usage behavior of boys and girls could have influenced the results, as boys in the study played video games more often than girls and spent less time on social media, the researchers report. Overall, however, there are no clear associations between general Internet use and depressive symptoms in both sexes.
Study author Dr. Mats Hallgren of the Karolinska Institutet had already found in previous studies with adults that mentally active forms of screen work, such as playing video games or working on the computer, may not affect the risk of depression to the same extent as more passive forms of screen use is. (as)
Author and source information
This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.
- A. Kandola, N. Owen , D. W. Dunstan, M. Hallgren: Prospective relationships of adolescents’ screen-based sedentary behaviour with depressive symptoms: the Millennium Cohort Study, in Psychological Medicine (veröffentlicht 19.02.2021), Psychological Medicine
- University College London: Boys who play video games have lower depression risk (veröffentlicht 19.02.2021), University College London
This article is for general guidance only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.