Video games could prevent later depression - but social media could lead to it

Video games could prevent later depression - but social media could lead to it (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images)

Playing video games regularly can help to prevent depression in young boys when they become teenagers, according to a new study

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Researchers found that children who played video games most days at age 11 were less likely to suffer from depression by the time they turned 14 than those who didn’t.

The study also found that young girls who spent more time on social media are more likely to develop depressive symptoms.

How did the study work?

Scientists analysed data on social media, internet and video game usage among more than 11,000 11 year olds. They then made contact with the children three years later, and asked them a series of questions about their mood and mental health.

However, the results may not be quite so straightforward, as researchers have pointed out that the effect was most significant among boys who did not carry out much exercise, and wasn’t present in girls.

This has led researchers to question whether there could be a social element to video gaming for less physically active boys which is being met and contributing to positive mental health, rather than just the video games themselves.

Those involved in the study have also pointed out that, while set factors such as financial and social status were factored into the study, there are still many ways in which other factors could impact the results.

‘Playing video games may have some benefits’

One of the lead researchers on the study, Aaron Kandola of UCL Psychiatry, said: “Guidelines on screen time should be based on our understanding of how these 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.

“We need to reduce how much time children and adults spend sitting down, for their physical and mental health, but that doesn’t mean that screen use is inherently harmful.”