Researchers have discovered that some children and youth with high videogame addiction tendencies may be at risk of sleep deprivation, obesity, and poor cardio-metabolic health.
In the new study, Canadian researchers examined the growing global gaming phenomenon and its impact on youth health. Their findings appear in the scientific journal PLOS One.
Dr. Katherine Morrison, a pediatric endocrinologist and co-author of the study, worked with researchers from McMaster Children’s Hospital and California State University, Fullerton.
Her team’s findings are serious, given the rise in videogame addictions, she said.
“This is an important phenomenon to understand. We are seeing that some children and teens develop serious addiction-like symptoms to video games,” said Morrison.
“It affects a vulnerable population of children and youth, can impact social interactions amongst youth and, as our research shows, can drive health issues.”
For their research, the team studied a group of children and teens ages 10 to 17 who were in lifestyle management programs — either for weight management or lipid disorders.
The study looked at whether the videogame habits of the group had an impact on sleep habits, obesity and cardio-metabolic health.
Using fitness trackers, the team monitored the sleep duration and compared that to the youth’s videogame usage.
The data showed that videogame addiction symptoms resulted in shorter sleep which, in turn, was related to elevated blood pressure, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high insulin resistance.
Investigators are quick to note that the study was performed on a specific group of children and teens, and it is unknown if this information applies to the general population.
“That said, we were amazed that amongst gamers, videogame addiction scores explained one third of the differences in sleep duration,” said Morrison.
“Sleep is emerging as a critical behavior for cardio-metabolic health, and this data shows that gaming addictions can cause numerous health issues in at least a segment of the population.”
“Childhood obesity tracks into adulthood and obese children face a greater risk of cardiovascular and coronary diseases as well as type II diabetes as adults. It is urgent to target early lifestyle behaviors such as videogame addictive tendencies that could lead to major future health consequences.”
Research is still in an embryonic stage.
Morrison said her team is just beginning to understand the effects of videogame addiction in children and teens. They plan on studying the effects in general populations while also analyzing video game usage and addiction tendencies of gamers over time.