Numerous health problems can occur with prolonged and/or excessive video game playing. Some of these problems may include: reoccurring muscle strains, vision problems, headaches, seizures and/or other ailments. Although some researchers suggest that playing video games for long periods of time can lead to temporary episodes of violence, aggression and/or fear, current studies have not found a direct link between prolonged video game playing and negative, self-destructive and/or dangerous behaviors.
In addition, current studies indicate that health problems caused by video games primarily occur in children, especially boys. Moreover, even video game consoles (PlayStation, XBOX and Nintendo Wii) have been linked to health problems, although it is unknown whether or not certain consoles cause more health problems than others.
It is important to note that the research literature on the negative effects of video games is inconsistent and contradictory. Some researchers report a strong correlation between video games and psychological issues (aggressive behaviors in males and depression symptoms in females), while others report that female gamers have a low risk of developing depression symptoms, but they are more likely to get into altercations with other females.
Violence, Aggression and Psychological Problems
According to Anderson, Gentile & Buckley (2007), neurotic and/or obsessive video gamers have a higher risk of clinical depression and/or anxiety than non-gamers. In addition, children who play video games for prolonged amounts of time are more prone to impulsivity, social isolation and addiction then children who do not play video games or those who play video games only for short amounts of time.
Some health problems caused by video games include: inattention, sleep irregularities (sleeping too much and/or insomnia), anxiety (fearfulness), excessive anger and rage and/or social phobias. Moreover, children who play video games for multiple hours a day also tend to have more violent and aggressive fantasies and/or participate in self-destructive activities then children who are non-gamers. Furthermore, “gamer children” are more likely to be bullied or victimized by peers.
Video Game Addiction
Although rare, it is possible to become addicted to playing video games. Some health problems caused by video games include: impulsivity, sudden and/or unexplained weight loss or weight gain, poor personal hygiene, lack of communication, social isolation and/or irregular sleep patterns. In some cases, a video game addiction can lead to compulsive gambling.
One of the health problems caused by video games may be seizures. In rare cases, video games may cause seizures. It is important to note that there is no concrete scientific evidence that prolonged and/or excessive video game playing leads to traditionally classified epileptic seizures. However, there may be a link between photosensitive epilepsy and video games. This type of epilepsy occurs when visual stimuli form patterns (flashing lights, moving patterns, etc.) that trigger seizures.
Another health problem caused by video games is vision impairments. In other words, staring at a television, computer or cell phone screen for too long can lead to vision problems like eye strains and glaucoma. This is especially prevalent in individuals who are near-sighted (Desai, Krishnan-Sarin, Cavallo & Potenza, 2010). Staring at a brightly lit screen can damage the eye and therefore affect an individual’s vision. When individuals forget to blink while looking at something on a screen, it causes their eyes to strain and lose moisture.
One of the most common health problems caused by video games is migraines. A migraine causes severe pain, throbbing and/or pulsing on one side of the head. It is also often associated with auras, nausea, extreme sensitivity to sound, fatigue and/or vomiting. A gamer can experience a migraine for hours, days and in some cases weeks following prolonged exposure to video games (especially those that have loud sounds, violence and/or flashing lights). Migraines caused by video games typically occur as a result of intense concentration on the game and vision impairments (eye strain and dry eye).
Anderson, C. A., Gentile, D. A. & Buckley, K. E. (2007). Violent video game effects on children and adolescents: Theory, research, and public policy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Desai, R. A., Krishnan-Sarin, S., Cavallo, D. & Potenza, M. N. (2010). Video-gaming among high school students: health correlates, gender differences, and problematic gaming. Pediatrics, 126 (6), 1414–1424.
Hasan, Y., Begue, L. & Bushman, B. J. (2013). Violent video games stress people out and make them more aggressive. Aggressive Behaviors, 39(1), 64-70.