Study shows boys who play video games show fewer depressive symptoms

With mental health at the forefront of many people's minds, could playing video games help lower the risk of depression in young boys

Erika Armanino
22nd March 2021
A study conducted by Cambridge University shows how boys who play video games most days can have lower depression risk.

Boys aged 11 who play video games regularly are less likely to suffer from depression three years later, a new study has suggested.

The report published in ‘Psychological Medicine’ analysed 11, 341 adolescents born in the UK between September 2000 and January 2002 from the Millennium Cohort Study. The results showed that 11 years old boys who play video games at least once a month have lower depression scores at age 14.

The research paper focuses on three different types of screen use at the age of 11: video games, social media and leisure-time internet use. The participants were asked: “How often do you play games on a computer or games console/use the internet/visit a social networking website on the internet?”. Based on the participants responses the depressive symptoms were measured using a short Moods and Feelings Questionnaire, asking them 13 questions.

Researchers also found that only boys benefit from playing video games while girls don’t. Using social media most days was associated with a 13% increase in  depressive symptoms scores than less than once a month/never in girls. Others studies have previously found similar trends, and researchers have suggested that frequent social media use could increase feelings of social isolation.

Despite this, the researchers did not find clear associations between general internet use and depressive symptoms in either gender.

Lead author Aaron Kandola said “Screens allow us to engage in a wide range of activities. Guidelines and recommendations about screen time should be based on our understanding of how these different activities might influence mental health and whether that influence is meaningful.”

“While we cannot confirm whether playing video games actually improves mental health, it didn’t appear harmful in our study and may have some benefits. Particularly during the pandemic, video games have been an important social platform for young people.”

“We need to reduce how much time children - and adults - spend sitting down, for their physical and mental health, but that doesn’t mean that screen use is inherently harmful.”

[Featured Image: Flickr]
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