Video Games Can Help Treat Anxiety And Depression, New Study Reveals

Video Games Can Help Treat Anxiety And Depression, New Study Reveals
Image: Kotaku / Nintendo

A new research study out of Lero, The Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, Physical Education and Sport Sciences Department, has highlighted how video games could help treat major mental issues including anxiety and depression.

The report, which aimed to definitively answer whether video games were good for mental health concluded that:

“Commercial video games show great promise as inexpensive, readily accessible, internationally available, effective, and stigma-free resources for the mitigation of some mental health issues in the absence of, or in addition to, traditional therapeutic treatments.”

As debate rages around the long-term impacts of gaming, including how it contributes to gambling addiction or ‘promotes’ violence, this study is an essential alternative voice.

In a year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, gaming became a safe haven for many. Whether games were a brief escape from reality or a method of coping with mental health issues, they were an important activity for dealing with the socially-distanced challenges of 2020.

Mental health conditions now impact more than 14 per cent of the global population, so access to inexpensive, impactful care to deal with these issues is more important than ever. Luckily, the study found video games were a great alternative or addition to traditional mental health therapies, made all the more valuable because they are so widely available.

It also found commercial video games (as opposed to games designed specifically to benefit mental health) were not only accessible, they also benefitted socialisation, cognition, emotion regulation and the overall mental health of players.

Team Fortress 2, Mario Kart, Limbo, Rayman and Candy Crush were all games called out as benefitting mental health, but RPGs, casual games, strategy games and multiplayer games were also called out as being great for the treatment of disorders like anxiety and depression.

As the study says, “Recent evidence has shown the utility of video games to evoke positive emotions such as joy and happiness, appreciation and competence, and social connectedness in individuals.” As we continue dealing with the knock-on impacts of coronavirus, these particular benefits are important to consider.

The study goes on to recommend commercial games as a viable alternative when traditional therapies aren’t available, or games as a supplement to existing therapy. As a low cost, freely available tool, gaming has the potential to genuinely change lives and improve people’s quality of living.

Rather than simply talk about the benefits of video games, the study concludes by suggesting commercial video games should be considered as potential alternatives for the treatment of mental health globally.


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