With all the drama surrounding people who play violent video games, it’s nice to see someone paying attention to those gamers who prefer the non-shooty, casual kind. A new study from East Carolina University did just that, and found that playing “non-violent, casual games” could actually be an effective way of treating depression and other mood disorders.
The study – which we have to admit was underwritten by PopCap, creators of (you guessed it) non-violent casual games – found that playing a bit of Bejeweled 2, Bookworm Adventures or Peggle reduced measurable depression symptoms by 57% when compared to the control group.
The study looked at 59 adult subjects who had been diagnosed with clinical depression. Half of the group played a selected PopCap game for twelve sessions a month, with each session roughly 40 minutes in length.
Before and after each gameplay session, the subjects were asked standard questionnaires to assess general mood, anxiety levels and depression symptoms. They were also hooked up to physiological sensors to measure heart rate and brain function for the duration of the experiment.
Dr. Carmen Russoniello oversaw the study (and previous studies on similar themes). She’s the Director of the Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic at ECU, and explains:
“The results of this study clearly demonstrate the intrinsic value of certain casual games in terms of significant, positive effects on the moods and anxiety levels of people suffering from any level of depression.
“In my opinion the findings support the possibility of using prescribed casual video games for treating depression and anxiety as an adjunct to, or perhaps even a replacement for, standard therapies including medication.
“Remarkably, these games had both short term (after 30 minutes of game play) and long term (after one month) effects when compared to the control group. Equally important, the data supports the hypothesis that casual video games contain intrinsic qualities that, when played, provoke physiological and biochemical changes consistent with positive changes in mood and anxiety.”
After a single gameplay session, participants who had played the games showed “significant reductions in depression across the board” – and these results continued after a month of regular play. The gaming group also experienced marked improvements in mood and anxiety, displaying, on average, 58% better fatigue levels, and a 55% decrease in anger levels when compared to the control group.
Nearly 10% of American adults suffer from a mood disorder – two thirds of those are major depression, making it the leading cause of disability in the United States for people aged 15 to 44.
For more information, all of the findings from the survey can be found on the [surl=http://www.ecu.edu/biofeedback/]University’s website[/surl]. Read up, and now you’ve got the perfect reason to play more games at work!