Lero study finds link between video games and positive mental health

Gaming may provide low-cost, easy access, effective and stigma-free support

29 June 2021

Popular video games have the potential to provide low-cost, easy access, effective and stigma-free support for some mental health issues, researchers at Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, have found.

Lero researcher Dr Mark Campbell said there is mounting scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of commercial video games to improve mental health outcomes after the team reviewed existing academic research on the impact of video games on mental health issues, particularly depression and anxiety.

“It is worth considering commercial video games as a potential alternative option for the improvement of various aspects of mental health globally,” said Dr Campbell.




Dr Campbell led a team attached to University of Limerick’s Health Research Institute and Physical Education & Sport Sciences department to publish their latest research paper Gaming your mental health: A narrative review on mitigating depression and anxiety symptoms via commercial video games in the academic journal JMIR Serious Games.

Commercial video games are freely available or available for a one-time relative low cost. There are an estimated 2.7 billion video gamers worldwide.

“The overall accessibility and pervasiveness of commercial video games within modern society positions them as an invaluable means of reaching individuals with mental health disorders, irrespective of age and sex, and with limited access to mental health care, particularly relevant during the current Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Lead author on the paper Magdalena Kowal of Lero and UL said the research was in the context of the financial and healthcare service burden of mental illness, affecting more than 14% of the world’s population, with a significant proportion of people with mental health problems not receiving treatment.

“There is a heightened demand for accessible and cost-effective methods that prevent and facilitate coping with mental health illness,” said Kowal. “This demand has become exacerbated following the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent increase in mental health disorders, depression and anxiety in particular.”

Kowal added that commercially available virtual reality (VR) video games have great potential in treating mental health issues also. “These are well-suited for the implementation of cognitive behavioural techniques for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders in the future. Given the immersive nature of VR technology and the controllability of the virtual environment, it could be particularly well-suited for use in exposure therapy.”

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