Study finds slight link between preteen gaming and depression — but it needs more study

Above: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's map Riot takes place in a destroyed prison.

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Another piece of research says that gaming might be bad for you — but don’t roll your eyes just yet.

new study out of the University of Texas says playing violent video games for more than two hours daily may lead to symptoms of depression in preadolescent kids. The results are far from concrete and require further study, but this inquiry has some notable data.

Studies often lead to further study, so that conclusion should come as no surprise. But what’s significant about this association, small though it may be, is that it is consistent across all racial and ethnic subgroups for boys.

Since video games have existed, questions have emerged about their effects on health, including children’s mental well-being. The bulk of studies have tried to determine whether playing violent video games leads to aggressive behavior in real life. To date, conclusions have been murky. Researchers have neither been able to prove a link between violent behavior and violent games nor disprove one.

But this study takes a different approach to analyzing the effects of violent video games on mental health. Rather than focus on violent behavior, this study focuses on depression. Researchers at the University of Texas asked themselves, if witnessing violent behavior in real life can lead to depression, can exposure to virtual violence affect the same response?

Controlling for gender, race/ethnicity, peer victimization, witnessing violence, being threatened with violence, aggression, family structure, and household income level, the study examined more than 5,000 video game-playing 10 year olds over the course of a year. The participants were divided into four categories, those who play violent video games for more than two hours; those who play nonviolent video games for more than two hours; those who play violent video games for less than two hours; and those who play non-violent video games for less than two hours. The results showed that boys who played violent video games excessively were significantly associated with a higher number of depressive symptoms than their counterparts. Girls on the other hand, did not show an uptick in depressive symptoms as a result of longer hours playing violent video games.

Other researchers have had a difficult time proving that playing violent video games especially over prolonged periods of time can lead to aggressive behavior. But a link between depression and violent gaming over long periods of time might account for those inconsistent links to aggression, as it’s occasionally being a symptom of depression.

The study, as noted at the beginning of this article, takes pains to say while boys who played violent video games for longer showed a significant increase of depressive symptoms, more information is needed to prove causality.

Even if an association was confirmed, further studies would need to be conducted to investigate potential underlying mechanisms, what happens to symptoms over time, and causality.

But in an arena full of murky conclusions these researchers seemed to hit on an interesting nugget worth exploring and possibly an explanation for why researchers haven’t been able to determine whether or not violent video games lead to aggression.

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Jesse Green
Jesse Green

Lack of vitamin d will create depressed people too. Maybe we should lighten up on the sunscreen along with the purel.

Jeffrey Green
Jeffrey Green

What a bullshit study... I'll tell you why there is a link right now; Depressed people like to stay indoors, people who spend a lot of time indoors tend to play video games or loose themselves in other forms of entertainment. You could find a 'slight link' if you do this test with Netflix too... This is a joke. I would say depression leads to video games, but not the other way around. If anything games bring you joy when you are feeling down.

Bruno Parisotto
Bruno Parisotto

Its a fact negative content will produce depression. I saw on the web, there are no depressive people but depressive thoughts. Games are an environment you deal not just with the content developed by the studio but also with messages and many other types of information the from the users so depending on the kind of the game, it becomes a strong variable to the depression calc, as we see nowadays, on any FPS match we play, there will be a guy yelling to someone "you're a noob!". This is a lack of culture, of respect. Fortunately now there is a button to mute individual users but not everybody got the patient to control its thoughts. Make sure the calc doesn't go wrong. Interesting subject by the way


@GamesBeat Can't wait for the study, "Reading too many studies about games leads to depression and confusion," but more studies needed.

Felre Fordit
Felre Fordit

The most obvious explanation would be that kids who are depressed don't go out and don't play with others, but play video games instead. So it's not video games causing depression, but depression leading to playing video games more.

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