Video game addiction tied to depression, anxiety in kids

Washington, Jan 20 (ANI): Many parents are concerned about the amount of time their kids spend playing video games and have often expressed the difficulty in pulling them away from the screen.

Now, a new study has bolstered the argument that video games can be addictive for children, and identified greater amounts of gaming, lower social competence and greater impulsivity as risk factors for becoming pathological gamers.

Over a two-year span, a group of researchers from Singapore, Hong Kong and an Iowa State University psychologist looked at 3,034 children in Singapore from third grade to eighth and found that nine percent of them were considered pathological players - similar percentages were found in other countries.

They also found that once a child becomes addicted to video games, he was more likely to become depressed, have social phobias, poorer grades and more anxiety.

The subjects were surveyed annually on their video game play and behaviour between 2007 and 2009. Teachers, trained by the research team, conducted the surveys in classrooms. The study had a 99 percent response rate.

Using the American Psychiatric Association's 'Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders' as a guide to define the addictive condition, the researchers found between 7.6 and 9.9 percent of the student sample could be defined as pathological gamers over the two-year period.

Eighty-four percent of those subjects who were first classified as pathological gamers were found to still be classified that way two years later. Yet in that same two-year window, only one percent of the sample became new pathological gamers.

The pathological gamers were playing an average of 31 hours a week compared with their less excessive peers who played about 19 hours a week.

"This study is important because we didn't know until this research whether some types of children are at greater risk, how long the problem lasts, or whether pathological gaming was a separate problem or simply a symptom of some other problem - such as depression," said Angeline Khoo, associate professor of psychological studies at the National Institute of Education in Singapore and principal investigator of the overall project.

Through their analyses, the researchers conclude that video game addiction is a serious behavioural problem that is separate from other afflictions.

"Once they become addicted, pathological gamers were more likely to become depressed, have increased social phobias, and increased anxiety. And they received poorer grades in school," said Iowa professor Douglas Gentile.

"These problems seem to increase as children become more addicted. In addition, when children stopped being addicted, depression, anxiety and social phobias decreased as well," he added.

The study will be published in the February 2011 issue of Pediatrics. (ANI)

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