Boys who play video games have lower depression risk, says a study

London: While it is always advisable to lessen the screen time for kids, however, the findings of a novel study say otherwise. The novel study advocates that boys who regularly play video games at age of 11 are less likely to develop depressive symptoms three years later.

The study led by a UCL researcher was published in 'Psychological Medicine'. It also found that girls who spend more time on social media appear to develop more depressive symptoms.

Taken together, the findings demonstrate how different types of screen time can positively or negatively influence young people's mental health, and may also impact boys and girls differently.

Lead author, Ph.D. student Aaron Kandola (UCL Psychiatry) said: "Screens allow us to engage in a wide range of activities. Guidelines and recommendations about screen time should be based on our understanding of how these different activities might influence mental health and whether that influence is meaningful.

"While we cannot confirm whether playing video games actually improves mental health, it didn't appear harmful in our study and may have some benefits. Particularly during the pandemic, video games have been an important social platform for young people.

Other studies have found mixed results, and many did not differentiate between different types of screen time, compare between genders, or follow such a large group of young people over multiple years. The research team from UCL, Karolinska Institutet (Sweden) and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute (Australia) reviewed data from 11,341 adolescents who are part of the Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative sample of young people who have been involved in research since they were born in the UK in 2000-2002.

The study participants had all answered questions about their time spent on social media, playing video games, or using the internet, at age 11, and also answered questions about depressive symptoms, such as low mood, loss of pleasure and poor concentration, at age 14. The clinical questionnaire measures depressive symptoms and their severity on a spectrum, rather than providing a clinical diagnosis.

The researchers found that boys who played video games most days had 24 per cent fewer depressive symptoms, three years later than boys who played video games less than once a month, although this effect was only significant among boys with low physical activity levels, and was not found among girls. The researchers say this might suggest that less active boys could derive more enjoyment and social interaction from video games.

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