YALE (US) — While about half of all teens play video games without any ill effects, for some — particularly girls — there can be problems.
The study published in the journal Pediatrics is among the first and largest to examine possible health links to gaming and problematic gaming in a community sample of adolescents.
Rani Desai, associate professor of psychiatry and epidemiology and public health at Yale University, and colleagues anonymously surveyed 4,028 adolescents about their gaming, problems associated with gaming, and other health behaviors.
They found that 51.2 percent of the teens played video games (76.3 percent of boys and 29.2 percent of girls). The study not only revealed that, overall, there were no negative health consequences of gaming in boys, but that gaming was linked to lower odds of smoking regularly.
Among girls, gaming is linked to fighting and carrying a weapon to school.
Of the teens surveyed, 4.9 percent reported that they had trouble cutting back on their gaming, felt an irresistible urge to play, or experienced tension that could only be relieved by playing. Boys were more likely to report such problems (5.8 percent) than girls (3.0 percent). In this group, problematic gaming was linked to regular cigarette smoking, drug use, depression, and serious fights in both boys and girls.
“The results suggest that in general recreational gaming is relatively harmless, particularly in boys. This is in contrast to many previously publicized reports suggesting that gaming leads to aggression” says Desai. “However, the gender differences observed between gamers and non-gamers suggest that girls may be gaming for different reasons than boys.”
Desai says the prevalence of problematic gaming is low, but not insignificant. She adds that more research is needed to define safe levels of gaming, refine the definition of problematic gaming, and evaluate effective prevention and intervention strategies.
The study was supported by Yale and the National Institutes of Health.
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