Problematic Teen Gamers Few; Adverse Effects Serious

No problems seen for moderate play, but problematic gamers fight, use drugs, smoke more

MONDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) -- While playing video games in moderation does not adversely affect health for most adolescents, problematic gamers are more likely to smoke, use drugs, fight, and feel depressed, according to a study published online Nov. 15 in Pediatrics.

Rani A. Desai, Ph.D., of the Yale University School of Medicine in West Haven, Conn., and colleagues administered surveys to 4,028 adolescents to elicit information on time spent playing video games. About half of those surveyed reported gaming (76.3 percent of boys and 29.2 percent of girls).

Overall, the researchers discerned no negative health correlations for gaming in boys and lower odds of regular smoking, while girl gamers were less likely to report feelings of depression, though more likely to report serious fights and carrying a weapon to school. "Problematic" gaming (defined as trying to cut back but having an irresistible urge to play) was reported by 4.9 percent of gamers and was associated with serious fighting, regular cigarette smoking, drug use, and depression.

"The prevalence of problematic gaming is low but not insignificant, and problematic gaming may be contained within a larger spectrum of externalizing behaviors. More research is needed to define safe levels of gaming, refine the definition of problematic gaming, and evaluate effective prevention and intervention strategies," the authors write.

One study author disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies and a casino and has consulted for law firms on issues related to addiction.

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