Playing Video Games Improves Happiness And Wellness In Children And Seniors

North Carolina State University research found that older adults who play video games report higher levels of emotional well-being.

University researchers, in a correlation study, asked 140 people aged 63 and older how often they played video games. Sixty-one percent of study participants reported that they played video games occasionally. Nearly 35 percent of participants said they played at least once a week.

Participants’ underwent a battery of tests in order to assess their emotional and social well-being. The administered tests reflected positive data that participants who played video games, including those who only played occasionally, reported higher levels of happiness.

In contrast, those who did not play video games reported more negative emotions and a tendency toward higher levels of depression.

The results were published online in Computers in Human Behavior.

Although not a cause-and-effect investigation, Jason Allaire, the lead author, believes the findings are important and could lead to future studies on the role of video games for improving the mental health and acuity of elders.

The changes that often come in later life — retirement, recent bereavement of a dead or dying loved one, increased isolation, and medical problems — can lead to depression in seniors.

Depression is a common problem in older adults. The symptoms of depression affect every aspect of life including energy, appetite, sleep, and interest in work, hobbies, and relationships.

Depression can take a toll on overall health and can affect anyone of any age, though women are more prone to become depressed.

Engaging in video games has also been shown to improve mild to moderate depression symptoms in teenagers. A game, called SPARX — which stands for Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts — was developed by researchers and teachers in New Zealand.

To test the game, researchers assigned 187 teens with mild to moderate depression to either play the video game or to undergo counseling treatment at schools and youth clinics. The average age of the kids in the study was 16, 60 percent of which were female.

Both standard therapy and playing video games reduced levels of anxiety and depression by about one-third. The video game helped more kids recover from their depression overall. About 44 percent achieved remission in the SPARX group compared to 26 percent who met with counselors.

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