Researchers say video games may boost seniors' mental health

Video games may seem like all fun and - well, games - but behind the racing cars and the fighting monsters, video games is just business; a very big business.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, a Washington, DC-based industry group, video games are about a 25-30 billion dollar annual business.

Video game controllerAnd with an industry that large, there is a lot of room for niche industries, including a growing segment of video games specifically tailored for older people.

One of the most well-known video games popular with seniors is Wii, a console made by Nintendo and first introduced in 2007.

The Wii requires users to physically engage with the console in order to play the games.

Another console, the Microsoft-produced Xbox Kinect, works on a similar basis, with a motion-detecting sensor for its video games.

And although these consoles were not specifically designed for use by seniors, older people represent a significant portion of these markets, and experts say these games may offer seniors the opportunity to boost not just their physical health, but also their emotional well-being.

This past March, researchers from the North Carolina State University (NCSU) reported that seniors who played video games were more likely to say they were emotionally happy than their peers who did not play video games.

“The research published here suggests that there a link between gaming and better well-being and emotional functioning,” Dr. Jason Allaire, associate professor of psychology at NCSU, one of the authors of the report, said in a statement. “We are currently planning studies to determine whether playing digital games actually improves mental health in older adults,” Allaire said.

In the study, researchers spoke with 140 people aged 63 and older, and asked them how often they played video games, and then evaluated their emotional security. Thirty-five per cent of respondents said they play video games at least weekly, and 61 per cent said they play video games on at least an occasional basis.

Among respondents who said they play video games regularly, researchers found they were more likely to have higher levels of emotional satisfaction and happiness, while their peers who did not play video games regularly were more likely to exhibit signs of depression.
The research paper was published in the academic journal Computers in Human Behavior.

While researchers said they cannot claim video games are likely to help seniors’ emotional well-being, there is a strong correlation between the two.

What do you think? Do video games help improve seniors’ emotions? Tell us in the comment section below: