I figured as the resident (to-be) doctor of this site (), I'm in charge of bringing articles like this to the attention of the gaming community.
The average gamer is 35, overweight, and more likely to be depressed, says a new study conducted by researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study, which was carried out in the Seattle-Tacoma area, found that gamers reported "lower extraversion, consistent with research on adolescents that linked video-game playing to a sedentary lifestyle and overweight status, and to mental-health concerns."
It also indicated a curious difference between male and female gamers: the former proved more overweight and reported more Internet usage than non-gamer men, while female gamers reported more depression and lower general health than non-gamer women.
But which comes first, the games or the poor health? The researchers hypothesized that depressed individuals might be turning to games as a means of self-medication, immersing themselves in a game's world as a way of forgetting about real-life troubles.
"Habitual use of video games as a coping response may [provide] a genesis for obsessive-compulsive video-game playing, if not video-game addiction," one researcher told MSNBC. The study calls for "further research among adults to clarify how to use digital opportunities more effectively to promote health and prevent disease."
As luck would have it, a study at East Carolina University funded by Bejeweled maker Popcap Games is also investigating the possible mental health benefits of game playing. Having already discovered that Bejeweled can improve mood and heart rhythms, the Carolina group is about to embark on an investigation in an attempt to determine whether games like Bejeweled can also deliver clinically significant improvements to depression sufferers.
"The research is part of a broad array of unconventional efforts that video game companies are devising to find new markets for their products," says Shankar Vedantam, writing this week for the Washington Post. "Many of these steps are based on the idea that depression and other disorders -- as well as everyday stress and worry -- involve systematic patterns of thought and self-doubt, and that games can distract people and put them in a different mental zone."