top of page

The benefits of video games for mental health. [Free article]

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

In video games we enjoy, for a life filled with joy.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is no health without mental health. Mental health diseases are responsible for about 14% of the worldwide disease burden. It is primarily due to the chronically burdensome character of depression and other prevalent mental disorders and alcohol and substance abuse disorders and psychoses. The importance of mental diseases for public health has been highlighted as a result of such assessments. People may have cemented mental health's estrangement from mainstream efforts to enhance health and decrease poverty by emphasising the different contributions of mental and physical problems to disability and mortality. The lack of understanding of the link between mental disease and other health conditions makes the burden of mental disorders likely underestimated. Mental illnesses raise the risk of communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as unintentional and intentional injuries. On the other hand, many health disorders increase the likelihood of mental illness, and comorbidity complicates help-seeking, diagnosis, treatment and influences prognosis.

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

According to Accenture, the video game market now exceeds USD 300 billion, more than movies and music markets combined. It is impressive given its humble beginnings of a simple hit-the-ball game, "Tennis for Two", in 1958. My parents gave me a Nintendo video game console when I was in primary school. Ever since then, my passion for video games has emerged and grown over time. Playing video games is part of my daily life, and it brings me much joy every day. This statement stays true even today. Along the way, I realised that there have to be benefits in partaking in this activity every day. I was feeling good, I behaved well every day and it did not deter me from having fun with my family. To my pleasure, I was pleased to find out that there are benefits to playing video games. Notably, its mental health benefits have been studied for some time now.

A study in 2010 showed that adolescents who are gamers have better mental health outcomes than those who are non-gamers[1]. The study involved more than 400 adolescents in middle school in Iran. Other studies have supported this observation. In these studies, video games have been shown to have many creative, social and emotional benefits. Interestingly, the results are the same even for violent video games [2–5]. One possible explanation is that children who play video games have described "letting off steam" in response to conflicts with peers or parents. Feelings of anger, guilt, or frustration evaporate after playing the game, leaving players feeling considerably better [6].

Flourishing adults have high levels of emotional well-being, are happy and satisfied. Additionally, they have a sense of purpose in their life, experience some degree of mastery, and accept all aspects of themselves. They also have a sense of personal progress and autonomy and an internal locus of control, selecting their fate rather than being victims of fate [7]. Let us look at the positive effects of video games within Seligman's positive psychology model for well-being. Seligman's model of well-being contains five elements: Positive emotion; Engagement; Relationships; Meaning and purpose, and Accomplishment (PERMA).

According to new research, moderate gaming can help with good emotions and emotional stability. Gaming has also been linked to improved mental health as a form of relaxation and stress reduction. On the other hand, the amount of gameplay has a moderating effect on the player's overall happiness. An analysis of the association between videogame activity and a variety of adjustment variables for 1304 high school students found that it was unlikely to be harmful[8]. Instead, it was frequently associated with beneficial outcomes. In addition, gamers had stronger self-esteem than non-gamers.

Increased happiness has been linked to increased task engagement[9]. The emotional involvement or commitment to a particular object or domain of interest and the intensity of a connection is called engagement. It also refers to one's temporal involvement or interactions with activities and social partners in one's immediate surroundings, with a significant link between engagement and happiness. Specifically, videogame players frequently report experiencing incredibly "immersive" states of consciousness, and in some circumstances, feeling as if they are their characters in the game. Csikszentmihalyi believed that experiencing flow would take many years of learning and skill development and that many people would not be able to do so. On the other hand, video games can give their players near-immediate and on-demand flow experiences through physical input, difficulty adjustment, and real-time visual feedback[10].

While immersive states have been linked to video game participation, video gaming environments also allow for developing and maintaining beneficial relationships. Positive interactions are thought to be critical for children's, adolescents', and adults' psychosocial adjustment and well-being[11]. Positive online video game interactions have been linked to chances for social and emotional support. Two-fifths of research participants indicated they would discuss sensitive problems with their online gaming buddies[12]. These are problems that they would not share with real-life peers, with female gamers being more inclined to do so. Two-fifths of the participants said they had met their online friends in person. This implies that online video gaming is a social activity that encourages social ties. A third of participants were attracted to another player (26 percent males vs. 42 percent females). This shows that MMOs provide a safe setting for players to develop emotional attachments to other players. Video games appear to allow players to express themselves in ways that they might not feel comfortable doing in real life due to their looks, gender, sexuality, or age.

Participating in meaningful activities gives daily life a sense of purpose and fulfilment. Finding meaning has been associated with participation in activities that benefit a cause larger than oneself. According to Jane McGonigal, videogame players have a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves[10]. She claims that in Halo 3's final mission, in which players must defend the Earth from alien attack, players collectively accomplished nearly 10 billion kills (as of April 2009), averaging 12,000 kills per minute. Killing an alien in Halo 3 has no real worth, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have meaning. Meaning is important not only to ourselves, our friends, and our families but also to a much broader group, such as the entire Human race. According to Seligman, the greater the group to which you belong, the more significance you can acquire. Connecting with millions of videogame players all around the world to defend against a common in-game onslaught is bigger than any single player, and it's been linked to finding significance and, as a result, happiness.

In a similar manner to competence, accomplishment can also be linked to videogame play. To this end, accomplishment was an important motive for playing MMOs [13]. Female players were more driven by the relationships and more likely to use the MMO environment to build supportive social networks, confirming findings that online gaming can support positive relationships [14]. However, male players were significantly more likely to be driven by accomplishment. The “achievement” factor measured the desire to become powerful in the context of the virtual environment through the achievement of goals and accumulation of items associated with power. While some users participated in the environment to make friends and form supportive social networks, others used the environment to become powerful through the accomplishment of goals.

In conclusion, playing video games facilitates all aspects of Seligman’s PERMA model. It is no wonder that I derive such good feelings from playing them. Due to its reported benefits and how I have made it part of my daily habit, I am sure to make it a part of a tradition in my family. As I am sure many others will do. In video games we enjoy, for a life filled with joy.



1. Allahverdipour, H., Bazargan, M., Farhadinasab, A., and Moeini, B. (2010). Correlates of video games playing among adolescents in an Islamic country. Bmc Public Health 10, 286.

2. Cantor, J. (2009). Grand theft childhood: The surprising truth about violent video games and what parents can do ‐ by Lawrence Kutner & Cheryl Olson. J Commun 59, 199–200.

3. Wang, C.K.J., Khoo, A., Liu, W.C., and Divaharan, S. (2008). Passion and Intrinsic Motivation in Digital Gaming. Cyberpsychol Behav 11, 39–45.

4. Przybylski, A.K., Ryan, R.M., and Rigby, C.S. (2009). The Motivating Role of Violence in Video Games. Pers Soc Psychol B 35, 243–259.

5. Ryan, R.M., Rigby, C.S., and Przybylski, A. (2006). The Motivational Pull of Video Games: A Self-Determination Theory Approach. Motiv Emotion 30, 344–360.

6. Colwell, J. (2007). Needs met through computer game play among adolescents. Pers Indiv Differ 43, 2072–2082.

7. Keyes, C.L.M. (2002). The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life. J Health Soc Behav 43, 207.

8. Durkin, K., and Barber, B. (2002). Not so doomed: computer game play and positive adolescent development. J Appl Dev Psychol 23, 373–392.

9. Killingsworth, M.A., and Gilbert, D.T. (2010). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Sci New York N Y 330, 932.

10. Farhangi, S. (2012). Reality is broken to be rebuilt: how a gamer’s mindset can show science educators new ways of contribution to science and world? Cult Stud Sci Educ 7, 1037–1044.

11. Bagwell, C.L., and Schmidt, M.E. (2011). The Friendship Quality of Overtly and Relationally Victimized Children. Merrill-palmer Q 57, 158–185.

12. Cole, H., and Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Social Interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Gamers. Cyberpsychol Behav 10, 575–583.

13. Yee, N. (2006). Motivations for Play in Online Games. Cyberpsychol Behav 9, 772–775.

14. Snodgrass, J.G., Lacy, M.G., Dengah, H.J.F., and Fagan, J. (2011). Enhancing one life rather than living two: Playing MMOs with offline friends. Comput Hum Behav 27, 1211–1222.

1 Comment

I agree that video games help people relax and take a break from everyday life (work, school, etc.)

For example, in the evenings I like to play online games, where I can communicate with other players. I also sometimes record videos on youtube, thanks to the fact that once I accidentally stumbled upon this page on the Internet.

bottom of page