Video games could be good for your mental wellbeing - the latest study explained

Playing video games can have a positive effect on a person’s mental wellbeing, according to new research.

People who play video games for long periods of time tend to feel happier than those who don’t, a study by the University of Oxford has found.

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The report’s findings seem to contradict some of common beliefs around the psychological effects of gaming - primarily that it often causes aggression or addiction. Researchers stressed that the study is not conclusive.

How did the study work?

Researchers at Oxford university’s Internet Institute took data from more than 3,200 people, all of whom were over the age of 18.

Using anonymised game data, combined with psychological surveys and questionnaires, they tried to establish patterns between how people felt, how often they played video games, and for how long they played when they did.

The study only looked at two video games - Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, and EA’s Plants vs Zombies - which researchers noted might have impacted their results, as both are highly social games.

The study is seen as particularly reliable compared with previous, similar research, because it used real play time data for the first time.

Typically, studies looking at the impact of video gaming have used self-reported playing time figures, which are generally seen to be unreliable.

What does this mean?

While the findings suggest that there can be a positive link between gaming and mental wellbeing for some people, researchers also note that the subjective experiences during play are likely a big factor.

Lead author of the study and director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute, Professor Andrew Przybylski, said that findings show video games “aren’t necessarily bad for your health,” and that other psychological factors also come into play.

He continued, “In fact, play can be an activity that relates positively to people’s mental health - and regulating video games could withhold those benefits from players.

“Working with Electronic Arts and Nintendo of America we’ve been able to combine academic and industry expertise.

“Through access to data on people’s playing time, for the first time we’ve been able to investigate the relation between actual game play behaviour and subjective wellbeing, enabling us to deliver a template for crafting high-quality evidence to support health policymakers.”