Study shows computer gaming can be beneficial to health

By Pauline Gaffney

A University researcher found that playing video games for long periods of time can actually be beneficial to your health.

Chennan Liu conducted research on the effects of video and computer gaming for her doctoral degree in social work from the University. She recently published her secondary data analysis, which found that excessive gaming does not directly correlate to certain health issues such as obesity. Liu said she was surprised to learn that in some instances, playing video games can actually be beneficial to your physical health and everyday life.

“The study took a longitudinal design that tracked video and computer gaming from adolescence into young adulthood,” Liu said in an email. 

She analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health from 1994-1996 and 2001-2002. The study defined heavy video and computer gaming as at least 21 hours per week spent gaming. There were additional usage points to gauge time spent gaming at 35, 42 and 56 hours.

While Liu found mixed results from the study, her analysis showed that those who gamed 21 hours or more a week were less likely to complete high school, but more likely to better self-report health and less likely to suffer from obesity. 

Playing video and computer games for more than 35 hours per week was associated with better health and more total years of education.

Video game players in all three categories (21-plus hours, 35-plus hours and 42-plus hours) were found less likely to use marijuana in the future. 

Liu found mental health problems arose in video game players who played 42 hours or more a week because this group was more likely to suffer from depression. However, this group also better self-reported health. 

Despite common stereotypes for gamers, Mylene Haus, sophomore in LAS and president of the Social Gaming Club, said he believes gaming has certain health benefits. 

The Social Gaming Club is a Registered Student Organization that gathers students weekly to play console games, PC games, board games and card games.

“Gaming is a mentally stimulating activity that can test all sorts of your abilities, such as reaction time, logic, planning and more,” Haus said in an email. “With the increasing availability of body-intensive peripherals such as Dance Dance Revolution mats, Kinect, Wiimotes and more, video games can improve your physical health as well.” 

Haus added that playing video games is a form of entertainment that relieves stress for players while also strengthening their brains, as long as it is done in moderation. 

Joshua Emge, senior in Engineering and webmaster of the Social Gaming Club, said he believes video games can encourages players to be social while they play.   

“Games empower the player to immerse themselves in the worlds that they explore,” he said in an email. “Interactivity also extends between real-world players through sharing stories or through competition, friends or strangers enhance the enjoyment of games.”

While Liu found several health benefits to come from gaming in her study, she believes adolescents should still limit the amount of time they spend gaming in order to lower the likeliness of high school dropouts and depression. She said to prevent these negative effects, youths should not game for more than three to five hours.

Liu is currently in China, where she plans to continue her gaming research by conducting a mixed method study to analyze the high rate of Internet and gaming addiction in China.

Pauline can be reached at [email protected]