Study: Pathological gaming can lead to depression, disorders

Dad Days of Summer: While Momania’s Theresa Walsh Giarrusso takes a vacation, local dad and sportswriter Andy Johnston will be filling in. You can e-mail him at

I grew up in the dawn of video games.

Andy and his son Ty.

Andy and his son Ty.

Galaga, Pac-Man, Asteroids. You name, I played it.

They were new to the scene in the early 1980s and all my friends pumped plenty of quarters into them.

Through the years, I’ve owned an Atari, a Sega Genesis, a Wii and all three generations of PlayStations. I still enjoy trying to sink ships on a submarine game when we take Ty to our local Chuck E. Cheese’s.

But I don’t think any I’ve ever been addicted to any of them, and for the most part, they were, and are, an innocent way to pass some free time.

There’s a new study – and I don’t know how scientific this is, but it’s going to be published in a upcoming issue of Pediatrics magazine – that says video game addiction “among children and teens may lead to the development of psychological disorders such as depression,” according to a article. 

The article says, “pathological” video gamers “have trouble fitting in with other kids and are more impulsive than children who aren’t addicted. Once addicted to video games, children were more likely to become depressed, anxious or have other social phobias. Not surprisingly, children who were hooked on video games also saw their school performance suffer.”

The study included more than 3,000 children and teens in Singapore and the article explains that “pathological” gamers spend up to 30 hours a week playing video games. It explained that 9 percent of the children qualified as pathological, a number consistent with kids in the U.S.

(Kids) Playing video games more than 30 hours a week, lack of social competence, less-than-average empathy and greater impulsivity all contributed to the addiction, the researchers found.

(Professor Douglas A.) Gentile said the researchers aren’t sure how gaming is contributing to depression, anxiety and other social phobias, but in this study, “the gaming precedes the depression. We don’t know if it’s truly causal, but gaming has an effect on its own, and you can’t just ignore gaming and treat depression,” he said.

 Thirty hours is an amazing amount of time. What are these parents doing to allow their kids to play that much?

Do your kids play a lot of video games?

Do you let your kids play for 30 hours a week?

Do you think the numbers in this story reflect kids who play video games a lot?

- By Andy Johnston, for the Momania blog

28 comments Add your comment


July 15th, 2011
7:25 am

A while back, I think I mentioned that the average person watches 6 hours of TV per day. If that figure is true, 30 hours per week does not surprise me. No, this would not be allowed here.


July 15th, 2011
7:47 am

I have casually gamed, playing the same classic ones that you name, while drinking pitchers of beer in some dimly lit watering hole.
However, today’s gamers are different, in the respect that it is their entire social experience. This is because the so-called parents have decided to use video games, computers, and TV in general as babysitters. Doing this allows the ever important “me” time that these imbeciles relenquished when they exercised their biological function of reproducing…or that is how they rationalize it.

No, I don’t think gaming today is all evil. It is just many times taken over the top by the morons, and the kids pay, by having little social skill that doesn’t include a game controller or keyboard. Many of these kids, speak only in mono-syllables and can’t even operate a can opener for heaven’s sake. These are the ones you often see, walking along staring at their text messaging, oblivious to anything else. If this represents the “new and technologically improved” social structure, you can have it, and I am extremely happy that my own little nuclear family doesn’t need it. The boy is well spoken and well written…with a pen…cursive. Plus, he can do what he needs with technology, while also being able to belay me on a climb…I return the favor for him, except he can out climb me.


July 15th, 2011
8:05 am


Our daughter watches our neighbor’s 10 year old son ( on M and T) and I know he enjoys anything electronic. He is a fun and smart kid. We have know him since he was a baby. This week, he came over here and they spent 2 hours playing Racko, Bananagrams and Monopoly Deal. The last two are new games for him and he had to learn them to play. I was thrilled that he stuck with it and actually beat my daughter a few times. To me, it is all about balance. It would take 2 hours of a parent’s time to sit down and do this and some parents are not interested. Sad but true.


July 15th, 2011
8:21 am

FYI…sorry the games I mentioned above are NOT electronic. Old fashioned presentation with cards, tiles etc.

Black and White Smiley Faces ☺☻

July 15th, 2011
8:22 am

I think this is, as it has been for decades, a subject that’s blown out of proportion.

If you want to talk about gamers with real issues, talk about the 13 yr old Chinese guys who play online line for 10-12 hours a day and do nothing but hammer you when you join in for multi-player online play. Because they do nothing but play.

Just something to think about.

On the other hand, how is it possible for anyone to have that much free time on their hands here in the USA?


July 15th, 2011
8:26 am

There are huge differences in the 80’s video games that we grew up on and those of today. One is that, obviously, these are more accessable. Another is that these are so much more addictive because of the nature of the games. Remember, once Pac Man died three times -GAME OVER. Then you had to start over. That got old after a while so we moved on to other things. The first time I watched my nephew play Mario in the early/mid nineties, I immediately noticed. If Mario dies, he just came back to life, or you just went back to the beginning of that “world”. To me, this was the beginning of gaming addiction and my nephew’s generation (he’s 24) was the very first affected by it.
I made a conscious effort to not allow video games while my son was small. Still he would gravitate to anything screen/game related. He found games on the computer (mostly car races and flight simulators). He spent hours on Webkins. I knew that, if we had a game system I would have to be very diligent about setting time limits and, frankly, I didn’t trust myself. I work and homeschool and help my husband run a business. So, if something would occupy my child for hours, I was likely to let it. My son got a Wii when he turned 9 and has plays it off and on but I have never had to set limits because he only plays for 30 minutes to an hour at a time.
He bought himself a DSI (handheld game) when he was ten with money he earned. Again, he doesn’t use it that much. And never uses it walking through stores, oblivious to the outside world. Gosh I wish parents would take those things away (along with the cell phones on which kids 11 and up seem to be “addicted” to texting on).
Games are like TV (only I think worse). The younger they start playing the more they seem to “need” that kind of stimulation to keep them occupied. So they are out of control if they are not playing so parents let them play more. It’s a vicious cycle and I can easily see how the children would end up having depression problems or making it in the real world. I happen to know a 30 yr old who receives disability for a social disorder. All he does is play video games. He has a wife and 3 kids who we are all (meaning society) supporting.
I also know two awesome homeschool kids who have never been allowed to play video games. They watch about 3 hours of TV a week and have very little computer time. They are such incredibly focused kids. It’s very obvious that their brains work on a different level than any other kids I have been around in years. And they never get bored. Wish I could have been that dedicated to the “screen free” time. Although, they are completely obsessed with playing the Wii when they are at my house.

Father Jane Goose

July 15th, 2011
8:29 am

I’ve always wanted children, but sometimes they just get in the way. After all, I’m reading my text messages, checking Facebook, ordering take out and shopping – it’s hard being a parent. The video game is a wonderful helper; just plop Little Johnny down in front of it and I’m free from parenting for hours on end! Thank goodness for the video game – now my TV time is totally uninterrupted and I can have a life without the constant annoyances of children bothering me.


July 15th, 2011
8:31 am

Personally, I think they have the cause & effect switched around on this study. My sister’s kids all play games, two of them all the time. Both of them have some serious issues. However, those issues were there before they starting sinking themselves into the games. I think the games provide an escape from the problems they are dealing with. The games aren’t causing their social issues and depression. I believe they play the games because they have social issues and depression.


July 15th, 2011
8:56 am

@Lori, interesting observation that I would tend to think is true as well. Video games become an easy escape for anyone who can’t fully deal with other people. Even if they play the online versions, the people they ‘talk’ to are not right in front of them.

My son truly is ADD and cannot stand to sit still and play video games very long. We never had a game system when he was younger but he did get an Nintendo Gameboy when he was about 10. I never saw him play it for more about 15 minutes and he was ready to get up and DO something (ride his bike, skateboard, etc.) I always laugh when people tell me their kid is ADHD and then they sit for hours on end playing video games.


July 15th, 2011
9:08 am

I’m with Lori on this.

That being said, kids spend more time sedentary today than we did in the 80’s when I grew up. There is DEFINITELY a relationship between that and overweight kids in the big picture. Yes, there are individual extenuating circumstances, but within the statistical bell curve, more game playing, sedentary kids make for more overweight kids.


July 15th, 2011
9:08 am


July 15th, 2011
9:47 am

I wonder how Mark Richt would handle this?


July 15th, 2011
9:49 am

Techmom, my sisters kids are actually ADD and ADHD who are playing the games all the time. The ADD, who is now 20 years old, one is very depressed all the time, has a genius level IQ and is a bit “different” than most of his peers, but he loves the online gaming. I think it gives him the “social” aspect that he’s missing with person contacts. The ADHD one is 8 and video games is the ONLY thing he will sit still for. He’s obsessive about it. I’ve never seen the kid without his DS in his pocket. It’s gotten so bad that when he comes to spend the night with us, I won’t let him bring it, because the whole point of spending the night is to play with my son, his cousin. So I can see how others might say their kids ADD or ADHD play games a lot. I guess every child is different, so hard to compare one to the other.


July 15th, 2011
10:06 am

I agree with earlier posters. Which is the cart and which is the horse? I know when you take the gaming away, you have a very stormy kid for quite a while–kinda like they were on drugs. It can be done! Parents have to be VERY STRONG, and many who allow their kids hours of game-paying are NOT strong parents who provide the kind of leadership the children so badly need.

An ADHD kid needs to be outside, making his own (real) world. He needs to also have some heavily structured time with chores, etc, and some time for contributing to the welfare of others. I have personally seen great changes for the few ADHD kids whose parents are willing to invest the time and committment to this.


July 15th, 2011
10:08 am

Contemporary video games pose more of a repugnance than the chronic/compulsive behavior they encourage. They’re all about hunting down and killing people (vampires, zombies, aliens). That, to me, is perverse. “It’s only a game”, the kids say, but the premise is still pretty sick. “It’s just a virtual war game like with paintball”, they say, but again, pretty sick premise. Yet, it’s become ubiquitously acceptable in modern society. Sad commentary on society.

Kind of like reality TV: the first “Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire” was an appalling spectacle, but people ate it up, and now it’s commonplace for attention w h 0 r e s to line up on such programs and pretend to gain romance. American Idol’s relatively talentless crew and unqualified judging is deemed to have actual merit. People watch Hoarders like rubbernecking at a car wreck as they drive by.

What in the hayell has happened to American society?

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

July 15th, 2011
10:52 am

Wouldn’t it stand to reason that if you put the word “pathological” in front of any behavior to describe the extreme involvement in it that you would come up to results similar to the ones you find with gaming?


July 15th, 2011
11:11 am

@abc, not sure what kind of video games you’ve been playing, but my child doesn’t play any video games that involved hunting down & killing people. While I agree that many games are over the top, there are still some very cute games that kids can play. I only buy my son the games that are rated E and I don’t like any of the games that involved shooting anything “alive”. The only shooting game he has is the Nerf one, where you shoot at targets.

With games, as with any activity, moderation is the key. Kids these days spend way to much time in front of a tv or computer or gaming system. They don’t really play with toys in a conventional sense, and I rarely see any kids in my neighborhood outside. We as parents apparently need to do a better job of teaching our kids to have fun and play without the use of an electronic device!!

Lady Strange

July 15th, 2011
11:18 am

It’s all about moderation. My son enjoys playing video games but he doesn’t get to play them for long periods of time. He prefer racing games to anything else, or playing Rampage on the N64. Playing outside is his preferred activity, he could spend all day on the slide and swings or just running around the yard. We were playing hide n seek this morning in the house before I had to leave for work. It’s all about moderation. Video games are not the problem, it’s the lazy parents.

Reality Check

July 15th, 2011
12:28 pm

Being a fellow parent who grew up in the 80’s it is funny to me to see comments like these and remember the warnings I got when I was a kid about arcades and what they do to society. Newsflash guys: the world is dramatically evolving into a computer based society. It is the natural progression of evolution. Yes you can find examples of addicted kids just like I can remember examples of kids that spent all their time and money sitting in arcades. However, the 30 mins you spent playing a crappy frogger game is not the same as the two hours a kid is involved with an immersive MMO that challenges them mentally (and with the advent of WII/Kinect/Move physically). I am all for moderation but I think that as a 80’s generation we are too quick to judge just like our parents and just like we said we would never do.

Texas Pete

July 15th, 2011
12:38 pm

A symptom of a larger problem. My 11 year old son plays video games all the time. I’m almost embarrassed how much he plays. However, he’s always been an A/B student (never made below a B on a report card), plays baseball in the spring and fall, takes Taekwondo 3 to 4 days a week during the summer and 2-3 times a week during baseball seasons, and reads. He also has aspirations in life to go to college and get a job so that he can make a lot of money (better than saying he just wants to play video games forever so he still seems to be connected to reality).

FWIW, I know social butterflies who are depressed.


July 15th, 2011
12:41 pm

@Reality Check, I agree. My oldest (now 26) has been an avid gamer for many years and is doing great, both mentally & physically. He has a college degree, a great job, happily married to a beautiful girl who shares his interests and he has both an Xbox with a kinect AND a PS3.

Reality Check

July 15th, 2011
12:46 pm

Another thing I forgot to mention that there is a lot of positive that comes from the new generation of games too. When my son was 6, he had some motor skill issues that were causing him some trouble in school, especially drawing/writing. The Dr. recommended a WII and DS. Both worked like a charm


July 15th, 2011
12:47 pm

Booh….everything needs balance. I’m an avid gamer, engineer, and I’m still full of personality. (I recognize that it’s not the norm.) Just make sure your kids have a good foundation: stay active, talk to other kids, etc. Kids need balance, no matter what they are doing. If you let them spend too much time playing outside and not doing their work, their grades slip. If you let them spend too much time playing video games, etc. Be a good parent, and they will fall in line.

diddle dadle

July 15th, 2011
1:12 pm

I totally agree with Shaggy. I know of two children in particular that have this sick obsession with computer games. It is really sad to see.


July 15th, 2011
1:26 pm

@Lori–it sounds like your older nephew make have Asperger’s, not ADD (or in addition to ADD).

My 7yr old son plays video games…we have several consoles and he plays computer games as well. I cannot fathom him playing 30 hrs a week!! He doesn’t even play daily.

My girls (8&9) both play Cooking Mama (Wii) and Pixie Hollow (computer)…again, it’s not even daily.

I think it says a lot about the PARENT when their children play 30 hrs of games per week…it may say the child is depressed, but it also says their parent sucks. Terrible.


July 15th, 2011
10:49 pm

One further comment (and I am probably not talking about your child or an kid you know). I have been an educator for 38 years. Gaming has been pretty common for about 28? 30? Of those years. Almost without exception, the most underachieving boys I have taught spent hours daily on the gaming electronics! Do I need to say it again? Many many of the children withbehavior problems with whom I have worked play for hours! Are there over-achieving kids who game? Yes. Are there well-behaved kids who game? Yes. How do I know this? Because I engage the kids in conversation, to find out interests they might have that would be a springboard to engaging them more in their learning. Foolproof? No, but extremely compelling correlation.


July 16th, 2011
2:25 am

moderation ….. the word that seems to be missing from about all these types of articles.

i will admit that during a time when my life was off track, i found mmo-rpg. these games can really suck you into a different train of thought. your daily goals go from being normal extraverted things to studying up for raids and rotations to bump up your dps or hps or jsut reviewing the stats from the last raid. this is where things can go really dark. however, i have some very close friends that evolved through that time. they even managed to survive me leaving the game.

i will also admit that getting sucked into games that become the center point of your life means the VOID ALREADY EXISTED. it was not the games fault…. it was out of pain and avoiding life that got me… and got so many of the people i knew there sucked in. granted i never played days on end but i also never was late to raiding for hours on hours a night. i met people who played at least 10 hours a day. i even knew one that commit suicide because sadly he had lost touch with the real world.

SO, WHATS THE ANSWER? no gaming- no studies also show that it is healthier than watching tv and helps with problem solving….. only allowing limited time for game play? maybe- but better make sure that time isn’t just all night…. my best guess and what freed me from it- it became a reward. when all task were done and i spent an hour or so at the gym or any exercise, i got to match my game time to the amount of time socially interacting. yes, 1 gym/park, 1 hanging out playing with friends = 2 hours of gaming. eventually, my real life came back to focus and i now rarely even want to game. it slowly put the balance back in my life and moderation became key once again.

btw, if you are thinking “yeah that’s true for kids, but what about adults?” i am in my late 20s and everyone of my guildmates had to be over 21. most of the them were actually in there early 30s. what always shocked me was how many couples (w/kids) played all night once the kiddos were in bed.


July 17th, 2011
5:54 pm

gamer, a friend of mine, a formerly high achieving adult, was addicted to games for several years when her kids were little. They could lay in her lap and nurse (until the age of 4!) but she would push them away if they tried to get her attention. It was not a pretty sight!