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January 19, 2012 at 2:02 PMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Causation or Affectation? Depression and Gaming

By John More Blogs by This Author

An ongoing Australian study is analyzing the link between depression, anxiety, and gaming. Daniel Loton, the post-graduate student running the study, is looking at the psychological effects of gaming by comparing gaming habits and a mental health diagnosis history.

Loton drops those that are participating in the study into two categories – excessive gamers (33 of more hours of gaming a week) and balanced gamers (no number offered here, I am guessing about 1 to 2 hours a day). After being categorized, gamers are asked (monthly) to fill out a questionnaire based on the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) to measure the depression and anxiety based on diagnosis.

“By asking people for their mental health diagnosis history, I can find the proportion of people that have been diagnosed with a mental illness and whether they have sought treatment.”

The interesting results of the study thus far, point to the fact that depression and anxiety are not caused by gaming. Instead, gaming is being used as a coping mechanism to deal with the symptoms of these “disorders.”

“The coping mechanism data suggests that people are using video games as a way of distracting themselves from their problems or escaping them,” he said.

“So you have to question whether that it is more likely that those mental health symptoms were there before excessive gaming than after”

“This has led me to think that early results suggest it may be a coping mechanism for depression and anxiety.”

Of those that have been surveyed, excessive gamers have actually performed at a higher level academically and at the same level as balanced gamers at work.

“The grade average was slightly higher with excessive gamers and they outperformed their own expectations of grades a lot more than the balanced group,” he said.

 On a personal note, I would like to point out that, though this study probably applies to more gamers that I would like to admit, it doesn’t apply to all of us. Despite study after study attempting to prove that there is some ulterior motive to playing video games, some of us just enjoy it. Yes, it is a coping mechanism for stress on certain days, but that doesn’t denote a psychological disorder. In my opinion, having something to go home to, a release valve, is a must in order to maintain stability.


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  • "gaming is being used as a coping mechanism to deal with the symptoms of these “disorders.”" I totally agree, John. I have friends that use gaming to help cope with what they are going through. Sometimes it's a great mechanism. But there is always a balance to every coping mechanism that people should find. :) Great, blog!

  • Video games are a nice release from the stresses of life. You get to use a different part of the brain, trying to figure out puzzles or just trying to jump to that next cliff without falling. I don't think I would be considered a gamer, being that I only play every so often, not on a daily basis. But I do think that it helps to forget your problems, enjoy some time, and isn't the cause of my depression.

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