Video Games to be a treatment for anxiety and depression?

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A new study finds links between the reduction of anxiety and depression with the use of casual games, like Bejeweled, Peggle and Bookworm adventures.

In a study conducted between ‘East Carolina University’s Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic’ and ‘Popcap Games’; comes evidence that suggests a link between the reduction of psychological problems, such as anxiety and depression, with casual games like Bejeweled. The study itself featured ~60 randomly selected participants with around half featured as controls. To quote the study –

East Carolina University’s Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic today revealed the results of a year-long randomized, controlled clinical study that measured the efficacy of so-called “casual” video games (CVGs) in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety as a co-morbid condition. Nearly 60 subjects, half of whom served as controls, all meeting the criteria of clinical depression, participated in the study, which involved three family-friendly, non-violent puzzle games: Bejeweled 2®, Peggle® and Bookworm® Adventures. (All of the games are made by PopCap Games, underwriter of the study.) The hypothesis was tested using state-of-the-art technologies including psychophysiology, biochemical and psychological measurements, and found an average reduction in depression symptoms of 57% in the experimental (“video game”) group.  The study, the first such research ever to measure the efficacy of video games in reducing depression and anxiety, also found significant reduction in anxiety, as well as improvements in all aspects of mood, among study subjects who played the casual video games.

Dr. Carmen Russoniello, Director of the Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic at ECU, and also the overseer of this study, points out that casual games have a positive effect over these psychological issues. He shares his findings –

“In my opinion the findings support the possibility of using prescribed casual video games for treating depression and anxiety as an adjunct to, or perhaps even a replacement for, standard therapies including medication. Remarkably, these games had both short term (after 30 minutes of game play) and long term (after one month) effects when compared to the control group. Equally important, the data supports the hypothesis that casual video games contain intrinsic qualities that, when played, provoke physiological and biochemical changes consistent with positive changes in mood and anxiety.”

An estimated 20.9 million Americans suffer from some kind of mood lowering symptoms and around two thirds of those suffer from major depression. – National Institute of Mental Health (US).

For more information, check out the study results here.

Gaming for as long as my memory serves me, probably longer.

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