Too Many Hours of Video Games Can Cause Depression – John Boruff

MinecraftThere’s a belief out there that video games are a cause of depression. But this is not quite a true statement. If its for 3-8 hours a day, yes: that stultifies the mind. But in general, all of the clinical studies suggest the opposite: that video games provide a way of escape from the mundane and often boring, depressing experience of life.

A recent mom blogger said this in an article I found on the computer last night:

“Children and teens struggle with focus, concentration, contentment, boredom, and even more serious things like depression and suicidal thoughts when they are spending 5+ hours in front of screens on a daily basis.”    – Christin Slade, Club31Women

Some parents could just be so sports-oriented that they can’t feel anything in common with the idea of video games, so they are naturally inclined to oppose them. But the reality is, for those who do form a video game habit, there is less depression and more happiness, and more emotional well-roundedness in comparison to kids who are not allowed to play video games:

“The present results suggest beneficial effects of training with an action video game on executive function, rumination and subjective cognition in a sample of depressed patients.”   – National Institutes of Health, “Fighting Depression

“I’ve turned to (video) games as potential tools for promoting emotional resilience.”  – Isabela Granic, GEMH Lab

“Results indicate that there was a 57% average decrease in depression symptoms among participants in the experimental group and this was statistically significant when compared to the control group. Table 1 presents clinical results for PHQ-9 pre- and post-study for both the video game and control groups. The video game group saw significant reductions in depression across the board.”  – Jeannine Hutson, East Carolina University

“Play more video games. Not “good for you” or “special healthy” video games. I’m talking about regular, normal, actually fun video games. East Carolina University published a study that suggests that playing games (like the popular smartphone games Bejeweled® or Bookworm®) for 30 minutes per day can help alleviate clinical depression and anxiety. Not just for the day, but a month later at levels that rival the effectiveness of medication.”  – Lisa Smuz, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Each Mind Matters

The last quote is significant, because it provides 30 minutes a day as the scientifically healthy limit for video game use. I remember Teresa of Avila saying that nuns who prayed for hours and hours harmed their mental and physical health by doing so (Interior Castle, 4.3.11-12). She said, “They let themselves become absorbed. The more they allow this, the more absorbed they become…I call it being carried away in foolishness because it amounts to nothing more than wasting time and wearing down one’s health. These persons feel nothing through their senses nor do they feel anything concerning GodOne person happened to remain eight hours in this state…the prioress should make them give up so many hours for prayer so that they have only a very few and try to get them to sleep and eat well until their natural strength begins to return…it will be quite a mortification for her.”

“Dr. Gentile, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University, says his latest results don’t prove that playing video games causes depression. Rather, he says, in young people a range of mental health problems and what he calls “pathological gaming” may develop in tandem, much as illnesses like the flu and pneumonia can set off one another and lead to new problems…He says his study shows a certain chronological progression: Young people who were more impulsive, more socially inept and less empathetic to begin with were more likely to become excessive video game players. Then, once they became what he terms pathological gamers, their grades were more likely to drop, and their relationships with their parents deteriorated…Two years later, they were more likely to suffer from depression, social phobias and anxiety than those who played video games less often. In the study, the few heavy gamers who stopped playing so much tended to show fewer symptoms of depression…Dr. Gentile suggested that teenagers who are experiencing problems may retreat into gaming, and that the gaming may, in turn, increase their depression and isolation. He says that parents should regulate their children’s use of video games and trust their instincts on what constitutes excessive use, something that his critics from the gaming industry also agree on…“We’ve always said these games should be used in moderation and should be a part of a well-rounded lifestyle, along with going outside to play, and reading, and doing schoolwork,” said Dan Hewitt, a spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association.” – Roni Rabin, “Video Games and the Depressed Teenager”, New York Times blog

CONCLUSION.

Videos games don’t usually cause depression, they can help reduce it: even to the point of not needing antidepressant pills anymore. However, if it becomes an addiction: 3-8 hours per day, then that can have a negative affect on the mental and physical health of a child. ECU researchers and psychiatrists recommend no more than 30 minutes of video game use per day. If Teresa were a psychiatrist, and she substituted Minecraft for prayer, I’m sure she would say the same thing, and maybe even allow a child to play for up to 2 hours a day, but not likely more than that. My current feeling is a 2 hour per day limit. Dr. Gentile found that “pathological gaming” (excessive use) leads to bad grades, bad relationships with parents, depression, and social anxiety.

About John Boruff

John Boruff is a husband, father, blogger, and insurance agent.
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