Video Games help Depression

Study: Casual video games demonstrate ability to reduce depression and anxiety

GREENVILLE, N.C. and SEATTLE   (Feb. 16, 2011)   —   A new study conducted at East Carolina University shows casual video games help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with clinical depression.

ECU’s Psychopsysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic released the findings of the one-year, randomized, controlled clinical study today.

Nearly 60 subjects, half of whom served as controls, all meeting the criteria of clinical depression, participated in the study, which involved three family-friendly, non-violent puzzle games: Bejeweled 2®, Peggle and Bookworm Adventures. All of the games are made by PopCap Games, underwriter of the study.

“The results of this study clearly demonstrate the intrinsic value of certain casual games in terms of significant, positive effects on the moods and anxiety levels of people suffering from any level of depression,” said Dr. Carmen Russoniello, director of the ECU Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic, who oversaw the study along with previous studies involving the same games’ effects on stress levels.


“In my opinion the findings support the possibility of using prescribed casual video games for treating depression and anxiety as an adjunct to, or perhaps even a replacement for, standard therapies including medication,” he said.

Researchers used state-of-the-art technologies including psychophysiology, biochemical and psychological measurements. The experimental group experienced an average reduction in depression symptoms of 57 percent.  The study, the first such research ever to measure the efficacy of video games in reducing depression and anxiety, also found significant reduction in anxiety, as well as improvements in all aspects of mood, among study subjects who played the casual video games.

Russoniello said research indicated games had both short term (after 30 minutes of game play) and long term (after one month) effects when compared to the control group. He said the results offer convincing evidence casual video games should be widely available to those who suffer depression.

“Given that only 25 percent of people who suffer from depression are receiving treatment, it seems prudent to make these low cost, readily accessible casual games video games available to those who need them,” he said. “They should be made available at health clinics, community centers, online ‘medical sites’ and given out by therapists as a means of intervention.”

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 20.9 million American adults, or 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 or older, suffer from a mood disorder. More than two-thirds of those — 14.8 million U.S. adults — suffer major depression, according to NIMH. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people aged 15 to 44. Depressive disorders often occur along with anxiety disorders, and approximately 40 million American adults (about 18 percent of all U.S. adults) have an anxiety disorder.


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