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Video Games Could Help Treat Mental Health Issues

Research shows video games may offer an accessible and affordable way of helping people with mental disorders.

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

The team at Lero, a world leader in connected-health research, said video games could be used where conventional therapies are not available because of cost or location or as an addition to traditional treatments for depression or anxiety.

Lero researcher Mark Campbell said there is mounting scientific evidence to show that commercial video games improve mental health outcomes, particularly depression and anxiety, after reviewing academic research on the subject.

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

Campbell and his team from the University of Limerick’s Health Research Institute and Physical Education & Sport Sciences department, publish their 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 show great promise as inexpensive, readily accessible, internationally available, effective, and stigma-free resources for the mitigation of some mental health issues in the absence of, or in addition to, traditional treatments,” the research paper states.

Popular video games can provide low-cost, easy access, practical and stigma-free support for some mental health issues. (Florenz Mendoza/Pexels)

Campbell said commercial video games are freely available or available for a one-time relative low cost, and there are an estimated 2.7 billion video gamers worldwide.

“The overall accessibility and pervasiveness of commercial video games within modern society position 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 their research was in the context of the financial and healthcare service burden of mental illness, affecting more than 14 percent of the world’s population. 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,” she said in a statement. “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 said 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-behavioral 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,” she said.

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Ojaswin Kathuria and Anindita Ghosh)