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Video Gaming Can Lead to Mental Health Problems

1/17/2011  

Pathological gaming, or video game addiction, has been associated with problems in youth including depression and poor grades. There may be identifiable risk factors for becoming a problem gamer and suffering negative outcomes, according to a new study, “Pathological Video Game Use Among Youths: A Two-Year Longitudinal Study,” in the February 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online January 17).

The study looked at more than 3,000 children in elementary and secondary school in Singapore. Researchers assessed pathological gaming, weekly amount of game play, impulsiveness, social competence, depression, social phobia, anxiety and depression. The prevalence of pathological gaming was similar to other countries – about 9 percent of young gamers. Children and teens who played more video games and who had lower social competence and greater impulsiveness were at higher risk of becoming pathological gamers. In addition to being a coping strategy for children who are already depressed or anxious, study authors suggest gaming can also increase some mental health problems. For example, a child’s baseline impulsiveness may become more pronounced once he or she is engaged in pathological gaming.

The authors identified depression, anxiety, social phobias and lower school performance as likely outcomes of problem gaming. Those who stopped being pathological gamers ended up with lower levels of these same symptoms, but still higher levels than the control group of children who never became pathological gamers.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.