New study links excessive gaming with serious mental health issues

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It’s a long standing debate, whether or not playing video games for long periods can negatively affect your mental health, or whether playing video games can improve mental processing and help enhance problem solving skills.

Now there’s a new study about to be published in the Journal Paediatrics that claims excessive gaming can lead to serious mental health issues and that pathological gamers are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety and have poor academic performance.

However, the Entertainment Software Association have hit back and said that the research is “flawed” and that there is no concrete evidence that computer and video games cause harm.

So what do we know?

Psychology Professor Douglas Gentile from Iowa State University led the study which involved surveying over 3,000 kids in Singapore. The kids were questioned on their gaming habits using questions similar to those used to assess gambling addiction as gaming addiction is not currently a recognisable disorder whereas gambling is.

Gentile found that 9 percent of those surveyed played games for over 30 hours a week and these “pathological” gamers were the ones that showed most signs of mental health problems.

According to Gentile, when you play games your brain behaves in a similar way as when you take drugs like cocaine. In other words chemicals are released as well as certain hormones. Over time you get used to the level of chemicals so need more intensity or new games to get the same level of excitement.

Ok but the US Defence Department as well as other researchers have said in the past that that playing video games can increase reaction times and improve mental processing so it’s difficult to know who to believe.

In his defence, Professor Gentile says it’s not the games that are the problem but the gamer. Gentile believes that the real problem is an impulse control disorder.

“You know you should do your homework, but you just can’t stop playing. You know you have to go to bed, but you have to get just one more level. What needs to be changed is not the game. What needs to change is players need to learn to put it back into balance.”

It’s all in the details really and video games alone aren’t the problem. Doing anything as stressful as intensive gaming for more than 40 hours a week on a prolonged basis is bound to have some sort of impact on mental health, especially where kids are concerned.

The debate continues.

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