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Video games pose health risks for adults

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Video Game and health

Playing video games has now been found to be associated with significant health risks in adults. Time spent in front of the television and computer was found to be associated with higher BMI, and less social interaction. The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found substantial health risk associated with adults who play video games.

An analysis of surveys submitted from 500 adults, ranging in age from 19 to 90, in the Seattle-Tacoma area, was conducted by Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Emory University and Andrews University to find health risks common among adults who play video games. Most gaming is associated with youth and young adults. The study shows the average age of video game players in the United States is 35.

The participants submitted surveys revealing internet use as a means of social support. They were asked whether they play video games. The group was asked to self-assess personality, general state of health, both mental and physical, report body mass index (BMI), poor quality of life, and respond to questions about depression. They were asked to estimate weekly time spent surfing the Internet and watching TV, including videos and DVDs – 45.1 percent reported playing video games. The researchers were able to link a variety of health risks to time spent playing games.

Female players and non-players were compared. Those who played video games had poorer overall health, and more depression. Male players had higher BMI and spent more time on the Internet socializing than male non-video players.

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Dr. James B Weaver III, PhD, MPH, National Center for Health Marketing, CDC, Atlanta, wrote in the article, "As hypothesized, health-risk factors – specifically, a higher BMI and a greater number of poor mental-health days – differentiated adult video-game players from nonplayers. Video-game players also reported lower extraversion, consistent with research on adolescents that linked video-game playing to a sedentary lifestyle and overweight status, and to mental-health concerns. Internet community support and time spent online distinguished adult video-game players from nonplayers, a finding consistent with prior research pointing to the willingness of adult video-game enthusiasts to sacrifice real-world social activities to play video games. The data illustrate the need for further research among adults to clarify how to use digital opportunities more effectively to promote health and prevent disease."

The challenge for promoting better health among adult video game players is finding a balance between real play and fake play. Brian A. Primack, MD, EdM, MS, from the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine praised the researchers for focusing on “playlike activities” that promote poor health compared to play activities of the past.

Primack says, “How do we simultaneously help the public steer away from imitation playlike activities, harness the potentially positive aspects of video games, and keep in perspective the overall place of video games in our society? “ There are massive, powerful industries promoting many playlike activities. And industry giants that can afford to will successfully tout the potential benefits of health-related products they develop. But who will be left to remind us that – for children and adults alike – Hide-And-Seek and Freeze Tag are still probably what we need most?"

The study shows that adults who spend time playing video games risk poor health from social isolation, and increased body mass index. Remaining sedentary while playing video games is now associated with increased health risks for adults, primarily in the 35 age group.

American Journal of Preventive Medicine