GamesBeat

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

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

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

Image Credit: Activision Publishing

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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