A new study linking adults who play video games to greater risk for depression and a higher body mass index (BMI) raises the question of whether a gaming question should be added to the screening process used by psychiatric hospitalists.
The study found female gamers reported greater depression (M=1.57) and poorer health status (M=3.9) than females who don’t play video games (depression, M=1.13; health status, M=3.57). Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Emory University in Atlanta, and Andrews University in Berrian Springs, Mich., also reported that male gamers reported higher BMIs than nongamers (M=5.31 vs. M5.19; Am J Prev Med.2009;37(4):299-305).
But an accompanying commentary and an interview with a longtime psychiatric hospitalist both say more research is needed before any processes are tweaked.
“It’s sort of like drinking,” says Robert Albanese, MD, chief of the medicine service at the Boise (Idaho) Veterans Affairs Medical Center and director of its Psychiatric Consultation Service. “If people are drinking six beers a day, then that could be a significant part of their depression. If they’re drinking one beer a day, then it probably isn’t.”
The report “is something to be aware of,” Dr. Albanese continues. “But defining its role in the assessment of the psychiatric process—that’s going to take some time.”
Dr. Albanese believes the impact of video gaming on adults is an area ripe for further study. He compares it to the value of research on C-reactive protein (CRP). “Many studies in many individuals have demonstrated that it is elevated in people at risk for coronary artery disease,” he notes, “but it still has not become standard of care as a screening instrument.”