Seniors who play video games less likely to be depressed

Researchers at North Carolina State University find that playing video games may help older adults feel more positive.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
A recent study finds that seniors who play video games report a better sense of well-being. Anne McLaughlin/North Carolina State University

New research out of North Carolina State University suggests a link between seniors who play video games and a healthier sense of well-being.

As reported this week in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, researchers surveyed 140 people ages 63 and older (the group's average age was 77) and placed them into one of three categories: regular gamers (at least once a week), occasional gamers (less than once a week), and non-gamers.

It turns out that those who were regular or occasional gamers reported higher levels of well-being and social functioning, while non-gamers reported higher levels of depression and negativity.

The study is small and the results only demonstrate correlation; it could be that those who elect to play video games are, for instance, healthier and more social to begin with than their non-playing counterparts. Also, it could be their interaction with friends or family members as they play video games, not the gaming itself, that boosts their overall mood.

"The research published here suggests that there's a link between gaming and better well-being and emotional functioning," says Dr. Jason Allaire, lead author of the paper, in a news release. "We are currently planning studies to determine whether playing digital games actually improves mental health in older adults."

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.