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Study Finds Casual Games Reduce Depression, Anxiety Symptoms

Study Finds Casual Games Reduce Depression, Anxiety Symptoms

February 16, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

February 16, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
More: Console/PC

An new clinical study from East Carolina University finds playing non-violent casual games reduced measurable depression symptoms by 57 percent compared to a control group.

The study [PowerPoint link], underwritten by casual game maker PopCap, studied 59 adult subjects diagnosed with clinical depression, half of whom played either Bejeweled 2, Bookworm Adventures or Peggle for twelve sessions averaging forty minutes in length over the course of a month.

Standard questionnaires were used to measure depression symptoms, anxiety levels and general mood both before and after gameplay. A series of physiological sensors were also used to measure heart rate and brain function throughout the experiment.

Participants that played the games showed "significant reductions in depression across the board" both after a single gameplay session and also after a month of regular play. The experimental group also showed significant improvements in mood and anxiety, including an average 55 percent decrease in anger levels and 58 percent better fatigue levels than the control group.

"The results of this randomized clinical study clearly demonstrate the intrinsic value of certain casual games in terms of significant, positive effects on depression and anxiety symptoms," the researchers write.

"In our opinion these findings support the use of prescribed casual video games for treating depression and anxiety as an adjunct to, or even replacement for, standard therapies including medication," the study's conslusion continues.

This new data follows up on a 2008 East Carolina University study, also underwritten by Popcap, which found similar improvements in stress and mood for casual game players among the general populace.

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