Monday, 25 Oct 2021

Lazy video-game addicted boys less likely to get depressed later, study finds

Lazy boys who don't exercise and play video games are less likely to suffer from depression later in life, according to a bombshell study.

Boys who play video games on a daily basis could in fact benefit from video games in terms of mental health, scientists say,

However, girls who spend a lot of time in front of the screen are more likely to suffer from depressive episodes, especially when using social media regularly, says the study.

Scientists found the contrast in affects of screen time in both genders.

Social and problem-solving features of video games could boost the mental health of young boys who do not exercise regularly, scientists found.

Screens have become increasingly popular over the past decade, with kids in the UK now spending on average one to three hours a day on the internet or one to two hours playing video games.

Being glued to a screen could have negative effects on a child's mental health, scientists have warned.

But few studies have looked at the different kinds of screen time compared to gender, until now.

Girls who use social media on a daily basis from the age of 11 are more likely to experience mental health problems three years later, whereas boys are not affected in the same way by screen time, researchers said.

Lead author doctoral student Aaron Kandola at University College London (UCL) said: "Screens allow us to engage in a wide range of activities.

"Guidelines and recommendations about screen time should be based on our understanding of how these different activities might influence mental health and whether that influence is meaningful."

The researchers analysed data from 11,341 teenagers who were born in the UK between 2000 and 2002.

At 11-years-old, participants in the study were asked how much time they spent on social media, playing video games and surfing the web.

Three years later, they answered questions about depressive symptoms, such as low mood, loss of pleasure and poor concentration.

Socioeconomic status, levels of physical activity, reports of bullying and previous emotional symptoms were also taken into account.

Only boys, who did not exercise regularly and played video games on most days when they were 11-years-old benefited from video games.

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They experienced on average 24 per cent fewer depressive symptoms than boys who gamed on a monthly basis, the researchers found.

Less active boys could benefit from certain aspects of video games like problem-solving or cooperation, which support mental health, scientists said.

Girls on the other hand, suffered 13 per cent more depressive symptoms at 14 if they used social media on a daily basis when they were 11-years-old, the study found.

These findings are in line with previous studies which found excessive social media use can increase feelings of social isolation.

Unfortunately data on the amount of time teenagers spend looking at their screens per day was not available.

Also, other factors could explain the link between different screen activities and depression, like social contact or parenting styles, the authors said.

Senior author Dr Mats Hallgren at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden said: "The relationship between screen time and mental health is complex, and we still need more research to help understand it.

"Any initiatives to reduce young people's screen time should be targeted and nuanced."

Understanding how different types of screen time affects children's mental health will help to develop better guidelines for parents.

Dr Hallgren said: "Our research points to possible benefits of screen time.

"However, we should still encourage young people to be physically active and to break up extended periods of sitting with light physical activity."

The findings were published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

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