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Study: Violent Video Games Bad for Mental Health

Among young college students, the frequency and type of video games played appears to parallel risky drug and alcohol use, poorer personal relationships, and low levels of self-esteem, researchers report.

"This does not mean that every person who plays video games has low self-worth, or that playing video games will lead to drug use," Laura M. Padilla-Walker told Reuters Health.

Rather, these findings simply indicate video gaming may cluster with a number of negative outcomes, "at least for some segment of the population," said Padilla-Walker, an associate professor at the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

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She and colleagues examined the previous 12-months' frequency and type of video game and Internet use reported by 500 female and 313 male undergraduate college students in the United States.

The students, who were 20 years old on average and mostly received course credit for their study participation, also recounted their drug and alcohol use, perceptions of self-worth and social acceptance, and the quality of their relationships with friends and family.

The findings, reported in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, showed "stark gender differences in video game and Internet use," Padilla-Walker said.

For example, compared with young women, young men reported video gaming three times as often and reported playing violent video games nearly eight times as often.

Young men were also more likely to use the Internet for entertainment, daily headline news, and pornography, while young women more often used the Internet for email and schoolwork.

However, regardless of gender, clear correlations were seen between frequent gaming and more frequent alcohol and drug use and lower quality personal relationships, as well as more frequent violent gaming and a greater number of sexual partners and low quality personal relationships.

The investigators linked similar negative outcomes with Internet use for chat rooms, shopping, entertainment, and pornography, but a contrasting "plethora of positive outcomes" with Internet use for schoolwork.

Padilla-Walker sees these findings as a starting point for future research. Continued analyses of video game and Internet use should improve the overall understanding of health and development among emerging young adults, she and colleagues note.