Excess gaming linked to depression, bad grades
January 17th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Excess gaming linked to depression, bad grades

When it comes to playing video games, it seems moderation is important to a child's mental health. A new study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics finds excessive gaming may lead to depression, anxiety, and poor grades in school.

Researchers in the U.S. and overseas looked at more than 3,000 elementary and middle-school children in Singapore and found that almost 9% of them were considered pathological or "addicted" to gaming – similar percentages were found in other countries.

Over a two-year period about 84% of those who started out as excessive gamers remained so, indicating that this may not simply be a phase that children go through. Boys were more likely to show symptoms of excessive gaming. Overall those considered "pathological" gamers displayed higher levels of depression and other mental health issues than their peers who played fewer video games. The researchers also found that students who did stop their excessive gaming reduced their levels of depression, anxiety and social phobia.

There is debate in the medical community as to whether pathological or "addictive" video gaming should be listed as a mental disorder in the American Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders – a guide used by the American Psychiatric Association in diagnosing mental disorders.

To gauge the level of pathological gaming, the study authors asked students questions similar to the type used to diagnose gambling addiction such as: were students becoming more preoccupied with video games, did they lie about the amount of time spent playing, had their schoolwork suffered, and if playing helped them escape from problems or bad feelings.

A young person was labeled pathological or "addicted" if the practice caused problems in his or her life.

"And we define that as actual functioning – their school, social, family, occupational, psychological functioning. To be considered pathological, gamers must be damaging multiple areas of their lives," explains study author Douglas Gentile, Ph.D., developmental psychologist at Iowa State University in Ames.

Pathological gamers were playing an average of more than 31 hours a week compared with their less excessive peers who played about 19 hours a week.

Gentile and the other researchers also looked at potential risk factors for becoming pathological gamers.

"Kids who were more impulsive were more likely to become addicted; they had a harder time managing their impulse control. If they were socially awkward then they were more likely to be addicted and if they spent a greater amount of time then the average kids playing games," explained Gentile.

The Entertainment Software Association disagreed with the findings. " "There simply is no concrete evidence that computer and video games cause harm," a statement from the organization said. "In fact, a wide body of research has shown the many ways games are being used to improve our lives through education, health and business applications."

Dr. Don Shifrin, spokesperson with the American Academy of Pediatrics, called Gentile's study important. "It allows us to take a harder look at how gamers play and whether there is balance in the lives of our children and teens," he said

The AAP recommends that elementary school age children engage in no more than one hour of screen time a day, and high schoolers no more than  two.

soundoff (351 Responses)
  1. James

    Most people that are getting mad and defending gaming are probably avid gamers themselves. I'm a former gaming addict, clean for around 3 years now. It ruined my life, grades, relationships, and made made me constantly depressed. I'm glad I'm done with that part of my life. Spend that time wasted on games exercising, learning something new, going ahead on schoolwork, hanging out with friends, etc.

    May 14, 2012 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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  3. Bessie Sage

    Gambling is also a major international commercial activity, with the legal gambling market totaling an estimated $335 billion in 2009.In other forms, gambling can be conducted with materials which have a value, but are not real money. For example, players of marbles games might wager marbles, and likewise games of Pogs or Magic: The Gathering can be played with the collectible game pieces (respectively, small discs and trading cards) as stakes, resulting in a meta-game regarding the value of a player's collection of pieces.;;

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  5. Ian Warren

    I've heard a lot about how people's parents talk about how video games have destroyed their grades in school, but I have to disagree on that reason why their grades are dropping. Oh course video games are a distraction, but they can be better than the alternative. If you had a choice to either go out side with your friends or stay inside and play video games with your friends over the internet, your parents will more than likely tell you to go outside. However, if you had homework you can't run outside and do homework at the same time. If you have your butt plopped in a chair playing a game you can easily have your homework on the side and you work on it during breaks between games or while you wait for stuff to happen. Also, if you're on the internet you can use it to help you on your homework if you forgot some vocabulary or whatnot. I have a friend that when they started playing video games instead of partying their grade point average rose by .8, which is a tremendous amount. So when I hear about kids being banned from electronics when they get in trouble for low grades, I just think they could've been punished in a different way, one that teaches a lesson or sets a habit instead of forbidding something that will keep them inside near their homework. Mind you this is just my opinion and experiences.

    January 15, 2014 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jloch98

      Ian, it depends on the individual and how addicted they are. I used to have B's and above when I only played video games on the weekends, but once I started doing it in the week, I failed my tests and quizzes, and almost all of my grades dropped down to D's and C's. The individual you are talking about is not addicted, but a "casual gamer". He probably only plays when he has nothing to do or study for or complete regarding school. Some people (like me) are so addicted that, even though we know we have to study for tests or complete homework, we start playing a game and don't stop till midnight or later. I really really really want to get over this addiction but I always fail.

      March 9, 2016 at 12:59 | Report abuse |
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