Just when you finally get the traditional media off the kick that gaming is for kids, they roll out a new study showing that gamers are insular, overweight, depressed 35 year olds. The study, based on 552 adults in the Seattle metro area, was published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The full article was under embargo until Midnight on the 18th, but you can read a PDF of it here.
Slightly less than half (45.1%) of the respondents played games, and the study claims to show that female gamers are more depressed than non-gamers, and male gamers tend to have a higher BMI and use the Internet more than non-gamers.
But when you look at the actual data, the differences aren’t as extreme as you might think. For example, male gamers have an average BMI of 28.05 while non gamers score a 26.55. You can imply that gamers are less fit than non gamers, but BOTH scores are in the same “Overweight” category on BMI charts but below the 30 mark which identifies “Obese”.
To put it in relative terms, you’re looking at the difference between Homer Simpson and Krusty the Clown.
Going down the chart on page 4 of the PDF above you can see other instances of gamers being worse off than non gamers, but really only marginally so. In a sample size of 500 people it’s hard to take this very seriously.
On the female side it could very easily be a case of correlation rather than causation. Rather than games causing depression, it seems much more likely that people who are already trending towards depression are going to choose introverted tasks, like playing games. I witnessed this in my own family with people who could not stop playing Windows Solitaire to the point of dysfunction. It was symptomatic of their depression, not the cause of it.
It would be like looking at the character of Jack Torrance from the Shining typing page after page of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and concluding “Well, obviously the typewriter made him do it…”
This new study, if nothing else, does raise additional questions and (hopefully) will lead to a larger study with a bigger sample size and follow both gamers and non-gamers for a longer period of time.