Excessive video gaming may lead to mental ill health problems for kids, experts warn

A new study shows the risk factors for “pathological,” or obsessive, video gamers. It shows that these children become more depressed and anxious the more they play. The risk factors that made a child a pathological gamer include the child being impulsive, socially awkward, and played more games than the average child.

The study appeared in the journal Paediatrics (Monday) and involved more than 3,000 elementary- and middle-school children in Singapore over a two-year period.

The authors write, “Greater amounts of gaming, lower social competence, and greater impulsivity seemed to act as risk factors for becoming pathological gamers, whereas depression, anxiety, social phobias, and lower school performance seemed to act as outcomes of pathological gaming.”

Results show that serious gamer make up to 9% of the children – a figure similar in other countries. The kids who were labelled excessive gamers spent an average of 31 hours a week playing video games. Common symptoms are falling grades, poorer relationships with parents and interest in more violent games. The scientists believe that this behaviour in childhood is a precedent for long-term mental illness. They warn that pathological gaming is not a “phase” and those with a problem still had a problem two years later. The study found that over a two-year period, about 84 percent of the gamers who were initially labelled as pathological remained so. The researchers also found that students who stopped their excessive gaming ended up with lower levels of depression, anxiety and social phobia than those who continued gaming.

The Entertainment Software Association, a trade association representing gamers, refuted the findings in a statement. “There simply is no concrete evidence that computer and video games cause harm," it read. “In fact, a wide body of research has shown the many ways games are being used to improve our lives through education, health and business applications.”

The American Academy of Paediatrics however recommends that elementary school age children engage in no more than one hour of screen time a day, and high-schoolers no more than two.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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  1. Kate Martin Kate Martin United States says:

    This is actually quite true for some people anyway. I played video game A LOT growing up. I'm 19 now, and I suffer from spurts of depression, anxiety, and social awkwardness. I also have obsessive thoughts connected with disturbing things I saw through video games. So, yeah. Too much gaming definitely screws you up.

  2. Jesse McMilin Jesse McMilin United States says:

    Everything in the article is definitely true. Excessive video games can certainly be a problem. However, it might not always be the video games that are causing the problems. Often, it could be the problems in real life that draw people to gaming. A good question to ask would be "Why do Kids Play Video Games?" It's very likely that, since everything in the real world seems hopeless, kids want to make video games their life. The protagonists in video games are most often epic heroes. Why face the real, cruel world when you can be a hero in another? Once kids start finding social satisfaction from the games, which is a strange concept but quite possible, they ignore their actual social life. This is just a hypothesis. I have no evidence.

  3. Jhana Lore Jhana Lore United States says:

    Nope, I'm a hardcore gamer. I've been playing games my whole entire life cycle. People who don't play games will place a label on you as a person. The same kind of labels any society puts on anyone who're living outside of it's normal social structure. Us hardcore gamers aren't apart of normal society. We're apart of what you would call the sub culture. To label us as mentally ill, because we're different than you or to call us uneducated is total nonsense. Maybe we just don't want the same things out of life as you, maybe we're a different breed of people than you're. Maybe some of us are emotionally different than you too. Maybe what you detect as ill, is actually depth.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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