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[GAMING MENTAL WELLNESS] Video games curb depression, anxiety at every age

Popular video games have the potential to provide low-cost, easy access, effective and stigma-free support for some mental health issues, researchers at Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, University of Limerick, Ireland have found. The team said video games could be used where conventional therapies are not available because of cost or location, or as an addition to traditional therapeutic treatments for depression or anxiety.

It’s a strategy worth trying in active-aging organizations, as well, especially in light of the heightened demand for accessible and cost-effective solutions in the aftermath of the pandemic. One coauthor pointed to commercially available virtual reality video games as also being of great potential benefit in this area.

Lero researcher Dr. Mark Campbell said there is mounting scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of commercial video games to improve mental health outcomes after the team reviewed existing academic research on the impact of video games on mental health issues, particularly depression and anxiety.

Dr. Campbell and colleagues produced a narrative review on mitigating depression and anxiety symptoms via commercial video games, published in the academic journal, JMIR Serious Games. Commercial video games are freely available or available for a one-time relative low cost and there are an estimated 2.7 billion video gamers worldwide, they noted.

"The overall accessibility and pervasiveness of commercial video games within modern society positions them as an invaluable means of reaching individuals with mental health disorders, irrespective of age and sex, and with limited access to mental health care, particularly relevant during the current COVID-19 pandemic," Dr. Campbell said.

The research was in the context of the financial and healthcare service burden of mental illness, affecting more than 14% of the world's population, with a significant proportion of people with mental health problems not receiving treatment.

The study authors conclude, “In light of the current research, we conclude 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.”

Read the abstract here


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