1. In this meta-analysis, studies evaluating the impact of video game interventions on depression and anxiety in 12 to 25-year-olds were assessed.

2. Video game interventions improved depression scores but did not impact anxiety scores.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Rates of depression and anxiety have been gradually increasing in adolescents and young adults. Critical mental health services may be inaccessible to this population due to cost, long wait times, and stigmatization. Video games represent an accessible medium which can be leveraged to deliver mental health interventions. They can be utilized asynchronously and remotely, which is especially important during pandemic-related lockdown periods and healthcare backlogs.

The present meta-analysis analyzed the current literature on video game-based mental health interventions in adolescents and young adults. Studies evaluating video game mental health interventions on 12 to 25-year-olds with depression and/or anxiety measured as outcomes were included. Studies were excluded if they concurrently implemented other therapies or if participants were suffering from a physical health condition or intellectual disability. Outcomes were assessed via validated outcome measures or diagnostic interviews.

A total of 12 studies with 844 participants were included in the meta-analysis, of which 7 were randomized control trials (RCTs) and five were non-RCTs. Depressive symptoms were significantly lowered in the RCTs evaluated (p=0.02) but not for non-RCTs (p=0.10). Conversely, a significant effect on anxiety symptoms was not observed for RCTs (p=0.72) or non-RCTs (p=0.43). Major limitations of the meta-analysis include high levels of heterogeneity in studies which evaluated depression, small number of studies included, and inconsistency of follow-up periods. Nonetheless, this study was significant in suggesting video game interventions may improve depression in adolescents and young adults, but do not seem to have an effect on levels of anxiety.

Click to read the study in BJPsych Open

Image: PD

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