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Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health coverage, debunks common myths about the impact gaming has on your mental health.

“Video games have evolved tremendously, going from basic pixelated diversions to captivating digital realms,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

“As they’ve soared in popularity, conversations about how gaming affects mental health have gained traction. Some believe gaming can be a therapeutic outlet, while others raise concerns about potential negative consequences. The link between gaming and mental well-being has also shone a spotlight on common myths.”

Myth 1: Gaming Can Lead to Anti-Social Behaviour

One common belief about gaming is that it’s a lonely activity that keeps people away from real-life connections. In truth, many of today’s video games encourage social interaction. Games like FortniteLeague of Legends, or Among Us allow players to connect online with friends and strangers. These connections foster a sense of belonging and friendship and alleviate loneliness.

Myth 2: Gaming Leads to Aggression

Numerous studies have explored whether violent video games cause real-world aggression and violence, but the results are inconclusive. The American Psychological Association suggests that while some studies indicate a link between violent video games and increased aggression, the overall effect size is relatively small. Family environment, upbringing, and individual personality play more substantial roles in aggression than video games alone.

Myth 3: Gamers Are Lazy and Unproductive

The stereotype of gamers as lazy and unproductive individuals who spend their days in front of screens persists. However, this myth overlooks the diverse and multifaceted nature of the gaming community. Gaming often involves complex challenges that require strategic thinking, teamwork, and perseverance. Competitive gaming, known as eSports, has become a legitimate career path, with professional gamers practising for hours daily to excel in tournaments. Additionally, gaming can enhance cognitive skills, such as problem-solving, decision-making, and spatial awareness.

Myth 4: Gaming Addiction Is Not a Real Problem

Gaming addiction, often referred to as Gaming Disorder, is a natural and recognised mental health condition. In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) included gaming disorders in the International Classification of Diseases. Gaming Disorder is defined by decreased control over gaming, a preference for gaming over other activities, and persistent gaming despite detrimental implications to one’s physical or mental health. While it affects a relatively small percentage of gamers, it can seriously affect their lives. Acknowledging the existence of Gaming Disorder is crucial for early diagnosis and intervention.

Myth 5: Gaming Always Causes Sleep Problems

Excessive gaming, particularly late at night, can disrupt sleep patterns. However, many other activities, such as binge-watching TV shows or using smartphones before bedtime, can also disrupt sleep. The key is moderation and responsible gaming habits.

Benefits of Gaming on Mental Health 

Now that we’ve debunked some common myths, let’s explore the potential positive effects of gaming on mental health:

  • Stress Reduction: Gaming can serve as escapism, allowing individuals to detach from real-life stressors and unwind temporarily.
  • Cognitive Enhancement: Many video games require problem-solving, critical thinking, and multitasking, which can enhance cognitive abilities.
  • Social Connection: Online multiplayer games enable players to connect with friends and meet new people, fostering a sense of belonging.
  • Creativity: Games that involve building, crafting, or storytelling can stimulate creativity and imagination.
  • Mental Resilience: Overcoming challenges in video games can promote resilience and the ability to handle real-life adversity.
  • Therapeutic Applications: Some video games are specifically designed for therapeutic purposes, such as managing anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Community Support: Gaming communities often provide emotional support and a sense of camaraderie among players facing similar challenges.

Balancing Act: Responsible Gaming

While gaming can offer mental health benefits, it’s essential to strike a balance and practice responsible gaming. Here are some tips:

  • Set Time Limits: Allocate a specific amount of time for gaming each day and stick to it.
  • Prioritise Real-Life Activities: Ensure that gaming doesn’t interfere with essential daily activities, such as work, school, exercise, and social interactions.
  • Take Breaks: Regularly step away from the screen to rest your eyes and stretch your body.
  • Monitor Content: Be mindful of the content and age-appropriateness of the games you play, especially if you have children.
  • Seek Professional Help: If you suspect you have a gaming addiction or notice signs of its negative impact on your life, consult a mental health professional.

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