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Can online gaming benefit mental health?

How can the design of online games be optimised for stress management and mental health promotion?

Online gaming and virtual reality have become increasingly popular in recent years, with advancements in technology making these experiences more immersive and realistic. A recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex, has found that playing online games can have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

The study

The study, published in the journal, “Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking,” surveyed over 2,000 adults who regularly play online games. The participants were asked about their gaming habits, as well as their mental health and wellbeing. The researchers found that those who played online games regularly reported higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction, as well as lower levels of anxiety and depression.

The findings

The study found that online gaming can have a positive impact on mental health for a number of reasons. Firstly, playing games can be a form of escapism, allowing individuals to take a break from the stressors of everyday life and enter a virtual world where they can relax and have fun. 

Secondly, online gaming can also provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, as players work to complete tasks and progress through the game. Additionally, the social aspect of online gaming can also contribute to improved mental health, as players can connect and interact with others who share their interests.

The limitations

However, the study also acknowledged some limitations. The researchers noted that the study relied on self-reported data, which could be subject to bias and inaccuracies. Additionally, the study did not examine the specific types of online games played, and it is possible that certain genres of games may have different effects on mental health.

The implications

Despite these limitations, the study provides valuable insights into the potential mental health benefits of online gaming. The findings suggest that online games can be a useful tool for managing stress, improving mood, and enhancing overall wellbeing. It is important to note that the study does not suggest that online gaming should be used as a replacement for traditional therapy or treatment for mental health conditions. However, it may be a useful addition to existing interventions, particularly for individuals who are already engaging in online gaming.

The authors of the study, Dr. Netta Weinstein and Dr. Andrew Przybylski, suggest that future research should examine the specific features of online games that contribute to the mental health benefits, in order to better understand how these games can be designed to maximise their positive effects.

It is important to note that gaming addiction can have multiple adverse consequences. Companies, such as Gamstop, have been set up to help curb the likelihood of developing addiction. Gamstop is a free service that lets you put controls in place to help users restrict their online gambling activities. It’s important to note the cons of casinos not on Gamstop, as they may be more likely to induce addictive behaviours.

In conclusion, the study conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex provides evidence that playing online games can have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing. While the study has some limitations, it highlights the potential of online gaming as a tool for managing stress and improving mood. It is important for future research to further investigate the specific features of online games that contribute to these benefits, in order to optimise their design for mental health promotion.

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Journal references

Przybylski, A. K., & Weinstein, N. (2019). Investigating the motivational and psychosocial dynamics of dysregulated gaming: Evidence from a preregistered cohort study. Clinical Psychological Science, 7(6), 1257–1265. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702619859341

Przybylski, A. K., & Weinstein, N. (2019). Violent video game engagement is not associated with adolescents’ aggressive behaviour: Evidence from a registered report. Royal Society Open Science, 6(2), 171474. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.171474  

Vey Law

Vey Law is a reporter at Breakthrough.

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