Violent video games linked to depression

depressed gamer

For those of you who are keeping score, video games aren’t actually bad for kids and can make you quite smart, except when they turn you into a criminal or anΒ aggressive, gun-toting crazy person.

It’s time to throw another log on the fire – new research published in the Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking journal shows that video games can make kids depressed.

This time, though, the study in question is a little bit more specific, and says only violent video games, will do the trick. So there’s that.

The study looked at over 5,000 kids aged around 11 years old – boys and girls – and assessed them based on low time (less than 2 hours) and high time (more than 2 hours) of daily video game play over 12 months.

The researchers then investigated the relation between violent games and the symptoms of depression: lack of pleasure, lack of interest in activities, concentration difficulties, low energy, low self-worth, and suicidal ideation.

Violent games were defined as titles that showed physical fighting, hurting, shooting, or killing, and were split into low-violence and high-violence categories.

The method in collecting data? Asking kids and their parents to punch responses to relevant questions into a computer.

The results? Pretty much what you’d expect:

“Overall, our findings indicate that playing violent video games for a substantial amount of time each day over an extended period is significantly associated with depression in preadolescent youth.”

Little Timmy was depressed because his mom made him go outside - and the graphics were terrible

Little Timmy was depressed because his mom made him go outside – and the graphics were terrible

The researchers noted that, while the associations were small, they were similar to findings from studies into the link between violent games and aggression.

Kids who played high violence games for long periods exhibited the highest level of depression, followed by high time, low violence players.

Low time, high violence players were only slightly more depressed than the reference group of low time, low violence players.

Interestingly, that would show that it has more to do with duration of play time, than content, no?

Boys were found to be most depressed when playing violent video games, on levels consistent with the findings above.

Going against the grain, though, girls who played low violence games for a long duration showed the most depressive symptoms.

The link between violence and depression

So does this mean violent video games will make kids depressed? Or is it that depressed kids tend to play violent video games?

The researchers conceded that “reverse causality” was possible – that depressed kids may be drawn to violent games – but the research data showed that this was unlikely.

The study argued that if higher depression individuals reflected preferences for violent video games, kids who played violent games for shorter periods of time should reflect similar depressive symptoms as kids who played for longer periods of time.

This wasn’t the case though – high violence, high time groups still showed the greatest level of depression, and low time, high violence groups were actually quite fine.

I think by now we know that violent video games have an impact on our psyche – but so does sitting in traffic, or watching the evening news.

Are these studies telling us anything we don’t know already? Or are they just warning us to keep violent content away from kids? Don’t we already have systems in place to prevent that already?

Won’t anybody think of the children?

Share your thoughts in the comments and forum.

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Forum discussion

Join the conversation

  • DemonGamer

    Lies, depressed kids tend to play more violent games. I know cause I used to be one. After playing I would be depressed, but only because I couldn’t play more. But really any game would be a great escape from difficult times I had. These correlation studies are really a waste of time and money.

  • Charl van der Merwe

    This just in! research shows that most research needs more research!

  • AbyssWalkerX8

    Okay, but isn’t it obvious that there would be a problem if 11 year old kids play games rated 16 and over? As many violent video games are?

  • ShadoWolf

    Kids that age shoudln’t be playing violent games in any case. As for their research methods…questionable. A combination of quantitative and qualitative research methodology is always better when doing social/behavioural studies. Coming from the Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking journa I’m actually surprised they didn’t do the latter.

  • ShadoWolf

    That’s why they should have included details like the social and economic levels of the kids and their parents. I would really love to know how they did sampling and how they “chose” the target population. All of that stuff is very important to consider when doing a study like this.

  • Dave

    I think that’s why parent control is important, age restrictions are more than a suggestion. Real research shows that kids who are still developing are susceptible to influence from whatever they’re exposed to. It’s why they learn things quicker but also why most people with social problems started with those issues at a young age. So an adult who has already got ingrained behaviour patterns isn’t going to be influenced negatively by a video game but a ten year old playing too many violent games is going to be impacted by it in some way, even in some small way. And of course the same goes for any form of media. I know growing up when I’d been playing too many shooter games in my dreams I’d be having nightmares about shooting people or hiding from Nazis. Coupled with a different home environment I could see how that might have lead to depression or violent behaviour.

  • If you care to read the study for yourself (it’s linked in the article), they did assess a lot of these things – I just highlighted the crux. The kids were from various racial groups from schools across the US. Other potential causes of depression (such as bullying, abuse et al) were also factored in.

  • Kromas of City17

    Don’t blame the type of game. I also get depressed while playing BF4 but not because of the violence but rather because of the lag issues. πŸ˜›

  • cloudzn

    this maybe just me but it seems researching violence on kids maybe a bit pointless as they are not able fully process it as they do not understand the full scope blowing some1 heads off with a shotgun in a game, rather test ppl that are able understand fully what they are doing and those results will be more usefull but hey if you wanna stir up controversy and get ppl talking research violence on a group of 11 year old

  • AfricanJedi

    The problem I have with this is….

    Violent games are age rated and those kids should not be playing it anyway.

    I grew up playing mario and tetris and I didnt go shoot up my school.

  • “Little Timmy was depressed because his mom made him go outside – and the graphics were terrible”


  • Mike E

    This study is methodologically flawed and proves nothing. All it says it’s that people who spend 2 hours or more on gaming every day show slightly higher levels of depression. The kids could just as easily have social issues or simply don’t have access to real world interactions, hence causing both the depression and allowing them enough free time to fill with killing stuff.

    I really hate being in the same profession as researchers like this.

  • Loman

    If that is the case then why did I not kill myself or my entire town already.

    It reminds me of the “study” that Violent music like heavy metal makes us violent.
    It just chills me out and calms me down.

    These studies are even more fake than thumb sucked statistics.

  • Loman

    My biggest problem with BF4 is the other two idiots with me when I play single player.

    I would crouch by a pillar assessing the situation and the idiot would push me out into the open.

    Great game ruined by stupid programming.
    They should have made the bots “see” that the space they are supposed to stand is already occupied and f||ck off somewhere else.

  • UltimateNinjaPandaDudeGuy

    Let’s be honest the link between “having to live and do this work thing and everything else society requires of me” attributes WAY more to depression!

  • Loman

    I used to play stuff I shouldn’t have as age restriction was nearly double my age and I still turned out pretty good.

  • Johan Lewis Last

    “The study looked at over 5,000 kids aged around 11 years old – boys and girls……” Well, kids of this age group should not be playing violent video games! Where is their parents? Who bought these VIOLENT video games for these kids in the first place? Can these kid’s parents not read/see the age restriction on these violent games? Are these parents stupid? Do these parents allow these kids to watch adult/violent movies too? If you ask me any parent who allows kids that are NOT suppose to watch these adult/violent movies or play these violent games, should be prosecuted for not doing their JOBS. THESE VIOLENT GAMES ARE MEANT TO BE PLAYED BY PEOPLE OF AN OLDER MINDSET WHO CAN DISTINGUISH BETWEEN REALITY AND FANTASY! It is called an AGE RESTRICTION for a specific reason.

  • Wurnman

    The Sorrow, Killswitch Engage are all very chilling music.

  • Sean

    “The study looked at over 5,000 kids aged around 11 years old – boys and girls”

    WTF, who let’s their 11year old to play games that are violent.

  • Sir Rants A Lot: On Pandora

    Why are they testing this on kids who technically aren’t allowed to play these age restricted video games?

    We all know that pre-adolescent kids are affected negetively by very violent games. The same way they are negetively affected by very violent media of any form. Be it movies, music, games etc.

    So all these studies tell me is that parents need to stop buying age inappropriate games for their kids. Seriously. It doesn’t take a study or a rocket scientist to put that together

  • Ron

    I was going to read the article but the comments summed it up nicely and saved me the time πŸ™‚

Violent video games linked to depression

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