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A new study published by University of Oxford researchers in an open-access journal, JMIR Pediatrics and Parenting, shows that although many school-age adolescents are spending considerable time gaming, it is not having a negative impact on the wellbeing.

Young gamer playing video game wearing headphone. © Shutterstock

The OxWell Student Survey is one of the largest school surveys of adolescent health and wellbeing in England. More than 12,000 secondary school-aged students (12-18 years) took part in the latest survey in June-July 2021 and provided information on how much they game.

Almost one-third (31.2%) of students that answered questions on their gaming reported spending at least 3.5 hours each day playing games on any electronic device (‘heavy’ gamers), but a fifth (21.8%) reported not engaging in any gaming. The study identified different profiles of adolescents who game for longer periods of time based on their psychological wellbeing, how much time they spent playing games on different electronic devices, and how much control they have over their gaming behaviours. They found that most of the ‘heavy’ gamers were experiencing no negative effects with regards to their well-being and 44% of ‘heavy’ gamers reported higher wellbeing than those who play games less or do not play them at all.

Lead author Dr Simona Skripkauskaite of Oxford's Departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry, said: 'Our findings suggest that there is a change in how adolescents are spending their free time with a substantial proportion choosing to spend most of this time playing video games. It is reassuring to see that, for most, this is not related to co-occurring wellbeing issues or mental ill-health. These findings suggest that, rather than worrying about the time spent playing video games, we should explore the opportunity of video gaming as a potential tool to find more affordable, creative and less stigmatising ways to reach and help adolescents experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties.'

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website

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