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Seniors Who Play Video Games Report Better Sense of Emotional Well-Being

New research from North Carolina State University finds that older adults who play video games report higher levels of emotional well-being.

The study found that participants who played video games reported higher levels of well-being. Click to enlarge. Photo credit: Anne McLaughlin, North Carolina State University

Researchers asked 140 people aged 63 and older how often they played video games, if at all. The study participants then took a battery of tests to assess their emotional and social well-being. 61 percent of study participants played video games at least occasionally, with 35 percent of participants saying they played at least once per week.

The study found that participants who played video games, including those who only played occasionally, reported higher levels of well-being. Those who did not play video games reported more negative emotions and a tendency toward higher levels of depression.

“The research published here suggests that there a link between gaming and better well-being and emotional functioning,” says Dr. Jason Allaire, lead author of a paper describing the study and an associate professor of psychology at NC State. “We are currently planning studies to determine whether playing digital games actually improves mental health in older adults. ”

The paper, “Successful aging through digital games: Socioemotional differences between older adult gamers and non-gamers,” was published online this week in Computers in Human Behavior. The paper was co-authored by Dr. Anne McLaughlin, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State; NC State Ph.D. students Amanda Trujillo, Laura Whitlock and Landon LaPorte; and Dr. Maribeth Gandy of the Georgia Institute of Technology. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.


Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Successful aging through digital games: Socioemotional differences between older adult gamers and non-gamers”

Authors: Jason C. Allaire, Anne Collins McLaughlin, Amanda Trujillo, Laura Whitlock and Landon LaPorte, North Carolina State University; Maribeth Gandy, Georgia Institute of Technology

Published: online March 2013 in Computers in Human Behavior

Abstract: The purpose of this investigation was to examine differences in psychological functioning (e.g., well-being, affect, depression, and social functioning) between older adults who play digital games compared to those older adults that did not play digital games. Analysis was conducted on a sample of 140 independently living older adults with an average age of 77.47 years (SD = 7.31). Participants were divided into three groups (Regular, Occasional gamers, and Non-gamers) — 60% of the sample was either a Regular or Occasional Gamer. Differences among the groups were found for well-being, negative affect, social functioning, and depression with Regular and Occasional gamers performing better, on average, than Non-gaming older adults. Findings suggest that playing may serve as a positive activity associated with successful aging.