Health effects of gaming
Even though there are several benefits to gaming (e.g. opportunities for interaction, improved spatial reasoning, better control of one's attention), there are health risks that come from too much gaming. What are these harms, and what can be done about them?
Overuse injuries come from activities that involve repeated use of muscles and tendons, to the point that pain and inflammation develop. If these injuries are allowed to progress, numbness can develop and permanent injury can result.
Overuse injuries of the hands and arms are rampant among gamers. Examples include:
• Carpal tunnel syndrome - inflammation of a nerve in the wrist
• Gamer's thumb - tendons that move the thumb become inflamed
Obesity, vision, sleep and emotional state
Gaming is associated with obesity in both teens and adults. Obesity is thought to be due to increased food intake while playing video games. Additionally, vision problems such as eye strain, are also common complaints of gamers.
Gaming has also been associated with sleep deprivation, insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders. There are also associations between gaming and depression, aggression and anxiety.
Symptoms of gaming addiction include:
• Gaming preoccupation
• Loss of interest in other activities
• Downplaying use
• Loss of relationship, educational or career opportunities
• Gaming to escape anxiety, guilt or other negative mood states
• Failure to control gaming
• Continued gaming despite psychosocial problems
Treatments are still a work in progress, but can include education and cognitive behavioural therapy.
Gaming in moderation
As with other activities that have benefits and harms, moderation is key. Most of the harms of gaming can be improved by limiting the hours spent gaming and by engaging in healthy activities like socialising in real life.
Gamers need to be educated on how to protect their thumbs, wrists, elbows, waistlines, emotions, sleep and eyes. Playing games can be fun when integrated into a healthy lifestyle, rather than letting the game become your life.