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Adults Playing Video Games: Health Risks?

Survey Shows Those Who Play Video Games Report More Depression Than Non-Gamers
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 20, 2009 -- Adults who play video games may be increasing their risk for health problems, a new study shows.

A survey published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that gamers reported more depression than non-gamers; the video game players also said they were more sedentary than non-players.

The study researchers included the CDC's James B. Weaver III, PhD, MPH, and colleagues at Emory and Andrews universities. They surveyed 562 people between the ages of 19 and 90 in the Tacoma-Seattle, Wash., area, where Internet usage is highest in the nation.

Among their findings:

  • 45.1% of respondents reported playing video games.
  • Male gamers had higher body mass indexes than male non-gamers.
  • Males and females alike use gaming and the Internet for social support.
  • Adult gamers report  more "poor mental health days," were more sedentary, and less outgoing.
  • Men were more likely than women to be gamers.
  • Gamers reported more depression than people who didn't play computer games.
  • Gamers reported they spent more time on the Internet than non-gamers.

Women surveyed seemed to use video games for "self-medication" and mood management, but that's not necessarily bad, Weaver tells WebMD.

It's just that women may have latched onto another method of mood management, and that's possibly a positive step, he says.

"Women may be using video games as a form of digital medication," he tells WebMD. "Women are particularly good at using media to help manage their mood. Women who are experiencing mental health challenges are actually trying to improve their condition through self-distraction."

The researchers also found that gamers feel they get less social support from friends and family members, and more from fellow gamers.

Weaver says in a news release that scientists need to do more research to see if there are "digital opportunities" to promote health and prevent disease.

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