Frustrated man playing video game.

Adults & Video Games: What’s the Risk?

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Right now there is a ton of research emerging on the health and behavior risks of excessive Internet use and video game playing for young people and children. But what about adults? Are the risks the same?

Frustrated man playing video game.

A recent research article examined the potential health risks of adults who play online games. This was the first article ever published on video game playing among adults. 

This study, conducted in Washington State, followed 552 adults who play video games. Of these, 249 identified themselves as “video gamers”, and more men than women called themselves gamers.

Researchers found that adults who play video games suffered from more depression, lower health status, more poor-mental-health days, and were more overweight.

Video gamers reported that they received less social support from family members and friends and that they perceived the Internet community as a positive social support. According to their own estimates, gamers also spent more time using both the Internet and TV than their non-gaming peers.

One interpretation of these findings is that women who play video games may giving themselves a form of “digital self-medication.” Evidence shows that women are more effective at mood management through their media content choices, so some women may immerse themselves in the digital environments as a means of self-distraction; in short, they can literally “take their minds off” their worries while playing a video game.

An interesting implication of this observation is that the habitual use of video games as a coping response may lead to obsessive–compulsive video gaming, if not video game addiction.

Excessive video gaming has definite health consequences. If you, or someone you care about, has an issue with gaming, start by keeping a log of the amount of time spent playing video games each week. Review that log and face the reality. Then, consider rescheduling your week with other activities, such as engaging in community service or building relationships with others in order to draw yourself away from the computer.

Author

Gary L. Hopkins, MD, DrPH, MPH is currently an associate research professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is also associate director of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions, Director of the Center for Prevention Research and Director of the Center for Media Impact Research.