‘Problematic’ Gaming Linked To Depression, Drugs And Fighting

‘Problematic’ Gaming Linked To Depression, Drugs And Fighting

In a survey that’s sure to be taken the wrong way by somebody, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine have discovered links between “problematic gaming” and negative health behaviours like smoking, doing drugs and fighting. But first, good news!

the good news is that the study, which surveyed 4028 adolescents about their gaming habits, found that there were no major connections between gaming and increased violence and falling grades. In fact, teens that participated in modest amounts of gaming were less likely to smoke, got better grades and were probably prettier than other kids. I’m just guessing on that last one.

Of the 4028 teens surveyed, 51.2 per cent reported that they played video games, which accounted for 76.3 per cent of the boys and 29.2 per cent of the girls. Most of these teens game in moderation and have never touched a cigarette, bottle of booze, or whatever it is they put crack in. A crack jug. that sounds good, let’s run with it.

So what’s the problem?

Problematic gamers are the problem. Using three signs associated with the Minnesota Impulse Disorder Inventory – problems trying to cut back on gaming, increased anxiety when not gaming, and relief when they finally do play – researchers identified a small percentage of the gamers as problematic gamers.

Only 5.8 per cent of the boys and 3 per cent of girls fell into this category, but these were some bad boys and girls.

The study determined that boys and girls that identified as problematic gamers were more likely to smoke cigarettes, do drugs, suffer from depression, or resort to violence. Girls in particular were more prone to violence, with a small but significant number indicating they get into fights regularly and carry weapons to school.

What does this mean? The data is wide open to interpretation. Perhaps girls from tougher neighborhoods tend to game more. Maybe depressives find gaming a good way to lose themselves.

Perhaps gaming causes depression? No, that’s just silly.

The study isn’t without its major flaws in any case. Researchers asked teenagers questions. Do you know how hard it is to get a straight answer out of a teenager? I’ve been a teenager previously, and I lied like a champ, often for no reason.

You can read the full study for a more comprehensive picture. It’s wordy and the language is a bit dense, but it’s all there.

When Video Games Get Problematic So Do Smoking, Drug Use and Aggression [Science Daily]



  • Really important points to take away:

    “There were no significant negative health correlates of gaming in boys, which likely reflects the popularity and normative nature of such games for this group.” – Playing games is a normal activity for this demographic, and seems to be unrelated to any negative health concerns.

    “We also found that among boys who reported gaming, 5.9% endorsed problematic gaming, compared with 3.0% of girls who reported gaming, which suggests that male gamers may be at higher risk for developing a gaming problem but that overall the risk of developing a problem is relatively low.” Of gamers, between 3 and 6% will develop problematic behaviour associated with gaming. That’s about 4 out of 100 people. That is statistically significant, in that it is a palpable, reportable result, but it is hardly the vast majority that the media plays up on.

    They found “a relatively low but important percentage of reported problems with gaming, and important associations between problematic gaming and smoking, drug use, aggressive behavior and depression, although there were no associations with grade averages, extracurricular activities, marijuana use, or alcohol use.” – Meaning there was an association, not a causation, between problematic gaming and smoking, drug use, aggressive behaviour and depression, but nothing that indicated gaming caused poor performance in school, or using alcohol or marijuana. (What ‘drug use’ is then I’m not sure!)

    They also go on at some length to explore what they call ‘problematic gaming’ and the fact that there is no agreed-upon definition for that term. The measure they used was 3 symptoms: difficulty in cutting back on gaming time, anxiety when not gaming, relief when gaming. Sort of problematic, I would say.

    Finally an example of why its incredibly important to establish causality as opposed to correlation: This study found a relationship between problematic gaming and depression, “However, some research has suggested that adolescents who play excessive amounts of video games, in part, do so to deal with negative affect.” Meaning kids who are already depressed may play lots of videogames to deal with their depression. Not that lots of gaming causes the depression in the first place.

    Ok that’s PLENTY from me.

    • I too think ‘linked’ is too strong a term. As you say, just because there’s an association doesn’t mean there’s causality.

      Honestly, I think along with the depression relief, the kids who are more inclined to have an addictive personality are going to get addicted… whether to games, or drugs in their many forms, or the adrenaline from aggression. Which is an issue of their psyche, not the evil evil games corrupting them.

      It’s kind of like the ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ argument – violent people play violent games because they enjoy the violence – but the games didn’t cause the violence in the first place.

  • Depression causes gaming more like, but it can be said that if you suffer from depression (like myself), that doing anything that you like (videogames being one of my favourite things) can help you feel less depressive and help you forget that you were depressed – though depending on the person what works for them sould be music, films, bushwalking, shopping, reading, partying, travelling etc.

    • Yeah lets see a study on the highly addictive activity of walking!!

      The addicts are truly pathetic, always saying “But I can’t stop, I have to get home!”

      I can’t speak for any other depressives but GTA3 has saved my life on more than one occasion, whenever I was nearing ‘kobain impersonation’ level depression, loading up GTA3, chucking on my metal soundtrack and screaming around liberty city on a mass murder spree really managed to break me out of it

  • Also I got to say, having been a pothead for over 8 years (not since 2006 though – gave it up!), gaming while high was great everything was enhanced and classic 2D games felt like you were actually being transported back in time when you played them! My meaning though is that its not games that make people use drugs, its that gaming while using drugs is just a trip unto itself – its fun, same as drinking with your mated and trying to play racing games.

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