Video Games as Stress Relief

Video Games as Stress Relief

In 2012 researchers at the University of Utah released a study reporting that video games have a two-pronged set of benefits in terms of stress relief both for patients and for their care providers.

The paper was titled“Patient-Empowerment Interactive Technologies” and its lead author, Carol Bruggers, is a professor at the University of Utah’s Department of Pediatrics as well as a physician at Primary Children’s Medical Center.

The contributing authors to the paper were faculty from the University of Utah’s Department of Pediatrics, the Brain Institute, College of Fine Arts, College of Pharmacy, School of Computing, and the Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center.

The paper describes how gaming improve resilience, empowerment, and gives a “fighting spirit” for pediatric oncology patients as well as patients with other chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, depression, autism and Parkinson’s disease.

The study mostly dealt with games played on Wii, Xbox, and PlayStation platforms, and suggests that there are very real benefits for video games becoming a part of personalized medicine for patients, as well as serving as stress relief for doctors, nurses and physical therapists.

Another paper that was published by the East Carolina University’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies in 2008 revealed the results of a six-month long, randomized, controlled study that measured the stress-relieving and other mood-lifting effects of so-called “casual” video games.

According to Dr. Carmen Russoniello, associate professor of recreational therapy and director of the Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic at ECU’s College of Health and Human Performance, the study indicates that the stress relief benefits found in video game play is quite genuine.

“. . . There is a wide range of therapeutic applications of casual games in mood-related disorders such as depression and in stress-related disorders including diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” Russoniello concludes.

Those two studies are just the tip of the iceberg; dozens of studies since 2000 support the general conclusion that video games offer beneficial stress relief, with additional findings including the discovery that regular gaming can reduce production of the stress-related hormone cortisol.

A pair of studies published in 2011 by University of Colorado's Jeffrey Snodgrass, associate professor of anthropology (which included the game World of Warcraft) reveal positive effects on levels of stress, life satisfaction and happiness.

Back in 2004 Harvard University began to study the effects of violent video games on kids and adults, the resulting conclusions indicating that there is no relationship between violent video games and violent children in real life.

The two researchers at Harvard, Psychologists Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson, have documented their findings in their paper Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games.

The $1.5 million study, which began in 2004, closely examined a pool of 1,200 children following sessions of play with violent games like the Grand Theft Auto series and non-violent titles like The Sims, determining that playing these games was nothing more than a stress reliever.

That's good news for gamers in terms of stress relief, but even better related news comes from a 2010 study Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson of Texas A&M International University, which concludes that not only does violent game play relieve stress, it is actually more likely to prevent violent episodes by gamers than to cause them!

Now granted we added the “!” to emphasize that point, but we really don't have to. Ferguson's study is just one of dozens that came to that conclusion, but we should point out that nearly all of the studies qualify the results by indicating that the type of game play that they are talking about is moderate regular and even daily play, but not extreme play.

A 2007 study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Center for Mental Health and Media helps to dispel some myths and uncovers some surprises about the effects of violent gaming on young teens, with an emphasis upon game play habits and choices.

According to that study, almost all young teens play video games. Just six percent of the sample had not played any electronic games in the previous six months, and most 7th and 8th graders (ages 12 to 14) regularly play violent video games.

Two-thirds of the boys who were studied and more than one in four girls reported playing at least one M-rated game “a lot in the past six months,” while a third of boys and one in ten girls indicated that they played video or computer games almost every day.

That study goes on to explain that game play in these age groups helped the gamers to moderate emotional issues, relieve stress, and actually leads to less violent feelings rather than more.

Taking on the role of aggressor in the game has been shown to reduce the amount of aggression felt in real life

Posted: 1st Jul 2014 by CMBF
Stress, gaming