Video games linked to lower depression risk for boys

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A new study published in Psychological Medicine suggests that a nuanced approach may be needed to understand how types of screen-time activities affect adolescents.

Regular video game use was linked to a lower risk of depressive symptoms among boys but not girls.

On the other hand, frequent social media use was linked to a higher risk of depressive symptoms among girls but not boys.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many children and teenagers have been spending long hours on computers and other electronic devices.

School closures have pushed classes online, while public health restrictions have left adolescents with fewer recreational activities.

A new study published this month in Psychological Medicine suggests that a nuanced approach may be needed to understand how types of screen-time activities affect adolescents.

The study’s authors found that regular video game use was linked to a lower risk of depressive symptoms among boys but not girls.

On the other hand, frequent social media use was linked to a higher risk of depressive symptoms among girls but not boys.

“This study really highlights the need to take a more nuanced approach to how we look at screen time, especially as it relates to mental health outcomes in kids,” Britni Belcher, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study, told Healthline.

The new study evaluated 11,341 adolescents enrolled in the Millennium Cohort Study, an ongoing project that’s followed children born between 2000–2002 in the United Kingdom.

When participants were 11 years old, they told researchers how often they played video games, used social media, and engaged in leisure-time internet use. Then, at age 14, they completed a survey about depressive symptoms.

Boys who played video games once a month or more often at age 11 had depression scores 24 to 31 percent lower at age 14 than boys who played video games less often.

When the study’s authors controlled for physical activity level, they found the link between regular video game use and lower depression scores was significant only among boys with low activity levels.