Video games are often in the spotlight for their harmful effects on gamers’ mental health. However, a recent Oxford University study contradicts this preconception. According to the findings, playing video games intensively does not have much of an impact on the mental health of adult gamers.

Are video games bad for mental health? That’s what many alarmist studies and articles on the subject suggest. However, recent research conducted by a team of researchers from Oxford University sheds new light on the issue.

According to their findings, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, playing video games intensively has no significant impact on the mental health of adult gamers. To reach this conclusion, the researchers studied 414 gamers in the US and the UK over a 12-week period, through 2,036 surveys, tracking their playing time, mainly on Xbox, and assessing their well-being.

The results show that, contrary to popular belief, playing time is not correlated with an increase in symptoms of depression, anxiety or stress: “These results support the growing body of evidence that playtime is not the primary factor in the relationship between gaming and mental health for the majority of players and that research focus should be on the context and quality of gameplay instead,” reads the study.

Previous research has investigated the relationship between gaming time and mental well-being, without providing any clear-cut results. For some, excessive gaming could be linked to anxiety or even depression, while others failed to establish a significant link between gaming time and depression.

According to some studies, video games can be beneficial for gamers, offering them a means of compensating for stress, almost like a cathartic tool: “Gaming is successfully used as a strategy to recover from or cope with day-to-day stressors, to compensate for lacking or thwarted opportunities to satisfy basic psychological needs in everyday life, or even to contribute to personal psychological growth and increased resilience,” the study reads.

According to some studies, time is of little importance, both positively and negatively, according to the researchers who worked on this study. “For a general adult gaming population, and at time scales ranging from 1 day to 2 weeks, even variations of 4-5 additional hours of daily video game play are unlikely to have a practically significant impact on well-being.

“This leads us to conclude that at a population level, the typical range of observed playtime and playtime variation for adult gamers – ignoring content, context, and player specifics moving us outside ‘ordinary’ player experience – has no practically significant well-being impact, positive or negative.” – AFP Relaxnews